Hackers use technology to fight corruption

Watch out! Internet connections worldwide might be slower this weekend! This weekend hundreds of hackers, programmers, designers and anti-corruption experts and activists in Bogotá, Budapest, Casablanca, Jakarta, Moscow and Vilnius will come together this weekend to develop new ICT tools that can help citizens monitor government and report corruption.

Websites like ipaidabribe.com in India and use of twitter in events like the Arab Spring have shown that technology can be a powerful vehicle for people power.

Hacks Against Corruption (HAC) is Transparency International’s first attempt to bring together technology and anti-corruption specialists to use technology to come up with some of the challenges we face in fighting corruption: visualising the cost of corruption, monitoring complex, massive public budgets and allowing citizens to safely report corruption in their life.

What is a Hackathon?

Technology experts such as computer programmers and graphic and designers get together with policy experts (some in the same room, others in different citites) for a “marathon” session of software development.

Our Hackathon will happen with the help of Random Hack of Kindness – a joint initiative between Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, NASA, and the World Bank. It connects software developers who want to share their skills with disaster management workers to create computer software that will help them in their work.

We consider corruption a disaster.

Innovative solutions to corruption challenges

21 Transparency International  chapters have submitted 35 “problem statements” – descriptions of the challenge they want technology to solve.

What they most need is secure and anonymous online platforms for citizens to report problems:

  • TI Azerbaijan will work on an online platform for women to report harassment
  • TI Montenegro would like to develop a mobile app for citizens to report illegal construction
  • TI Malaysia plans to have an online platform for citizens to monitor performance of local councils
  • TI Zimbabwe is focusing on combatting corruption on the Zimbabwean roads.
  • TI Cambodia, TI Guatemala and TI Latvia want online reporting and information sharing platforms to help their  Legal Advice Centres
  • TI Kenya wants a tool for public institutions to improve responses to complaints sent by SMS text message or online

Another group of problem statements relates to the issue of how ICT can be used to make it easier for people to monitor their leaders:

The third set of  “problem statements”  aims to make the mountains of data involved in the disclosure of public data (budgets for an entire country, for example) easier for the public to sift through.. TI Montenegro, TI Malaysia, TI Portugal, TI Russia, TI Slovakia will hopefully promote the new generation of Freedom Of Information platforms.

Finally some chapters want to target a specific audience. TI Fiji, TI Hungary, TI Sri Lanka and TI Korea aim to design tools for youth to identify corruption in their everyday life or to provide information about their rights and tools to report corruption.

Read about other Transparency International online initiatives to fight corruption:

  • The anti-corruption online helpdesk vibor 33 and its ‘map of the region’s problems’ developed by our Russian Chapter and the Lebed movement.
  • TI Indonesia’s online list of corruptors, Korupedia.org
  • ForestWatch, a website run by TI Malaysia that lets the public monitor forest activities
  • The TI online game Depende de ti wich lets you experience how corruption affects decisions of managers and politicians

A Hackathon in full swing


Partnering up with the hacker community

I started organising the hackathon with my colleague Milena Marin a couple of months ago together with some of our most IT savvy chapters: TI Colombia, TI Hungary, TI Indonesia, TI Morocco, TI Lithuania and TI Russia.  While we have great expertise in the area of anti-corruption we had to build partnerships with other organisations to reach out to the hacker community. Besides RHoK Global, RHoK Jakarta and RHoK Bogota National Chapters built up strong partnerships with several other organizations and companies for the event. TI Colombia engaged Telefonica, Movistar, Wayra Colombia, Microsoft and Public. TI Morocco is working with Software Centre, TI Russia is partnering with Progress Engine and hosting the Open Data in Hackathon in St. Petersburg working together with Yahoo, W3C, Yandex . TI Indonesia is organizing the Hackathon together with Yayasan Air Putih, Club SPEAK and Club Indonesia Bersih.  The event in Budapest was put together with TI Hungary, Kitchen Budapest, Prezi.com and Kreativ Online and the team of the Data is Beautiful Conference.  TI Lithuania is working together with HUB Vilnius, Mediapolis and the Contemporary Arts Centre.

Watch the live streamsof the first ever global anti-corruption Hackathon here:

Whatever happens this weekend it seems this joint collective action of Chapters and external partners became an important milestone for  Transparency International; we mobilised our movement in using ICT and now a global community as a new audience joined our mission worldwide. We hope this new but challenging initiative will bring us sustainable and innovative solutions now and in the near future.

Carousel image: Flickr/Creative Commons: rhokberlin

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