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Radix Hidayat

Knowledge Center, SalingSilang.com

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Using IT To Tackle Down Corruption

In my home country, Indonesia, corruption is still a cancer that infected the whole country. And the cancer has been infected the polices, judges, attorneys, and even the parliament members, forming the so-called oligarchy of corruptors.

I've curious about what Shaffi Mather is doing: using websites as a "hall of shame" of corrupt officials. Or even the WikiLeaks model. Maybe the same thing can be implemented in Indonesia, but there are some things i've been wondered about:

1. how to assured that the information is correct, based on proof, so that the sites can't be used for blackmailing other people?

2. how to protect the whistleblower from harm and counter-attack from the corrupt officials?

3. how to protect the site from shut down?

I'm looking for your opinion and insights, peeps. I hope this small dea will be meaningful someday, and the corrupt officials will be tacke down someday.

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    Feb 17 2011: I like your question. Something similar has been on my TED profile for a couple of years and I recently proposed an idea related to this ... get you friends and family to stop helping the money laundering that comes from corruption!! That includes the employees of companies like Goldman Sacks!!

    One idea I have had for some time related to IT but not sure how to implement would be to create a program that searches the databases of real estate property ownership in the US (which is public record and is mostly online) and matches it with politicians of different countries. I think a list of the properties in the US of Indonesian and Argentine politicians (and their families) would make a very interesting read ... maybe we could hand it to judges in Jakarta and Buenos Aires ... maybe something gets done about it .... right?
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      Feb 17 2011: Doing the matches is easy. The problem is not all required data is public and/or online.

      Does the estate property ownership database identify each owner uniquely (so that you can differenciate between, for example, Bill Clinton the ex-president of the US, with Bill Clinton the plumber)?

      Even assuming it does (say, by Social Security Numbers), how about the list of all politicians (and their Social Security Numbers or other uniquely identifiable data)?

      What about non-US policitians and non-US properties who's data is not public on both fronts (like in my country)?

      What about relatives and spouces being the formal owners of what's practically being used by said suspected politician? Other than different government records for direct parenthood and legal marrige, no formal data exists, and even these records are not public in any country.

      Revealing the data is more complicated than it sounds, because "knowledge is power" and power can be abused, so it's the government's job to only release data which it could (at least theoretically) manage to control the usage of.
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    Feb 16 2011: I have the same in my own country, and looking at recent local developments, as well as WikiLeaks, I'm starting to think the 3 points you're making are sort of in conflict with each other...

    1. If the information is to be correct and based on proof, there's no way to stop attempts at shutting it down, WikiLeaks being the best example. Few people can resist that kind of pressure alone. Heck, the only reason WikiLeaks lives is because it got good momentum before the brutal attempts started. This won't happen for every similar site.

    2. The only way to protect whisle blowers is by not revealing them, which in turn can easily invalidate the so called "proof" ("anonymous tip" where I live is often a code word for "unnamed politician wanting to get the crowd to doubt"). One of the few exceptions where proof is not invalidated is a video recording, but that's not always easy to accomplish on high levels, especially when the suspect can deduce who recorded him.

    3. The only way for an institution to protect itself while still being based on proof is by being independant, like the court. As you already know, this doesn't make said institution operate based on moral views, and is therefore another corruption channel.

    The only way for corruption to be eliminated (or at least reduced to "minor" levels) is by one of these three counter points being invalidated. Our current government is trying to fight with the third one, since that the one they can most easily affect by passing laws for the courts' operation, but they seem to have forgetten (or lack solutions for) the other two counter points, which is one reason corruption is still a large issue. Combine that with the fact the court is by definition independant, while still being corrupted, and... well... I don't really such much of a solution.