ipaidabribe.com and other new tools in the war on graft

Kenyans love the Internet. But are we really making the most of it to improve our society?

Imagine if 30 years ago, someone came to your house with all the power that a Smartphone connected to the Internet can bring. Facebook, messenger apps, instant information and communication with anyone anywhere in the world.

Sharing ideas and music in digital forms, sharing pictures and now even live videos that can be seen within seconds; these would have seemed like magical powers only decades ago.

We are guilty of taking these gifts of modern life for granted. We are in danger of wasting them. And missing an opportunity for real, lasting change.

As we all know, one of the biggest issues that Kenya faces is how to reduce corruption. President Uhuru Kenyatta has started an anti-corruption drive that seems to be making real progress and taking down some big names. But maybe that is only part of the solution. Maybe the solution is our hands. Maybe the solution is already in our own pockets.

This week, I’ve been looking around the Internet to see how other countries who have struggled with corruption are coming up with innovative ways of reducing the problem.

One country that has suffered significantly under the weight of its own corruption is India. With over one billion people and massive inequality between the rich and poor, the country nevertheless managed to rank at number 80 out of 180 countries in the world on the Corruption Perception Index.

Our country, though improving, is still way behind at 143.

So my question is this: How can we use the blessings of new technology in order to solve the perennial problem of corruption in Kenya?

A new scheme in India offers us a new tool that could be very useful here in Kenya. It is a very simple idea – a single website that empowers citizens to report any instance of corruption that they personally experience. It is called ipaidabribe.com.

Whether it is for school places for your children, or a hospital bed for a relative, to get a visa, or to get the police to do their job, many of us have tried to get what we want by offering a small bribe to speed up the process.

The idea behind the website is to bring bribery into the light. The first step is transparency – to see what is really going on. We are already in this process in Kenya. We have admitted that corruption exists and we have decided that we want to reduce the problem. The next step is to report it and publicise it whenever it does.

It turns out we already have the technology to make this happen. It’s fast. It could be free to use. And it could save us millions as a country.

ipaidabribe.com allows citizens to log in anonymously and report any interaction that they have with a public official, whether good (not requiring a bribe) or bad (requiring a bribe). The goal is that “reports on the nature, number, pattern, types, locations and frequency of actual corrupt acts and values of bribes will add up to a valuable knowledge bank that will contribute to a reduction in bribe payments.”

Sounds like a great idea and one that can only help in the fight against corruption. The best thing about it? You can make a report within a few minutes using just your mobile phone.

I suggest we take India’s lead on this excellent use of available technology and follow in the footsteps of Bolivia and Hong Kong, towards a fairer society in which the assumption about bribery is – if you do it, it will be made public.

Because soon after the practice is brought out into the light of day, you can be sure that it will quickly be reduced.

How about we put our hands up here in Kenya and say – Yes, we want to face up to our country’s problems and Yes – as citizens, we are prepared to do our bit by sending a simple text report whenever we encounter a public official behaving in a corrupt way.

Getting a version of the site made available in Kenya will cost maybe a few thousand dollars, which is nothing compared to the amount of money and public trust that it could save.

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