Published on August 9th, 2020 📆 | 8135 Views ⚑0
Curbing corruption with technology – Punch Newspapers
The African continent is indeed blessed with everything it needs to become one of the richest continents in the world, but many years of political upheavals and incredibly high levels of corruption perpetrated by many officials, involved in channelling public funds for personal use has, effectively, crippled the continent’s potential and slow its growth tremendously.
The absence of secured and open access to information and transparency, which forms the key tools in the fight against corruption on the African continent, has been fully leveraged by some players, who have wrongly benefited from perpetrating corrupt practices. The continent, thus, continues to struggle and grope in the dark from the effects of corruption.
Africa is indeed a young continent with huge potential augmented by the enormous concentration of natural resources, which includes crude oil, copper, diamonds, bauxite, lithium, gold, hardwood forests, tropical fruits, etc., sprawling through its plains.
Africa is, in fact, believed to have the concentration of 30 per cent of the world’s mineral resources, but where did it all go wrong for Africa? How come the continent has been ranked as the poorest continent in the world with many of its people living below the poverty line?
Presently, the entire Gross Domestic Product of Africa combined is not any close to a third, of the United States’ GDP. What a shame!
There is hardly a day that goes by that one is inundated with one corruption news or the other, involving huge sums of money, on the continent. These are funds that would have been utilised in upgrading and rejuvenating these African countries and transform them to the likes of Singapore and Dubai in the UAE.
In 2017, the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranked South Africa 71 out of 180 countries, where corruption thrives. This is a one of the leading economies of Africa and that is the narration for many other African countries. Nigeria’s position is poor to say the least, appalling and shameful.
According to a study carried out by the World Bank, North African countries lose the equivalent of two per cent of GDP per year due to corrupt activities, which occurs as a result of public procurement contracts awarded to undeserving businesses through a system of “wasta” ( this means patronage or a special influence, through connections, in Arabic).
Foreigners are dissuaded from investing in Africa while some that have invested are packing up and leaving Africa for many reasons, among which corruption is one.
There has, however, been a series of moves to rid the African continent of the bane of corruption. To effectively eradicate corruption in Africa, deliberate and specific steps need to the taken and this is where taking advantage of technology comes in. African countries can weigh in on technology to curb the embarrassing corruption occurring on the continent.
Over the years, technology has evolved exponentially, generating gargantuan data that has eventually become an essential part of the history of man’s evolution, shaping his future and how he relates with his environment and beyond.
In organisations, (both public and private), technology has been invested in and used, in detecting high level of fraudulent activities and through automation, quickly “nipped in the bud”, ravaging threats, before becoming dangerous phenomenon that will cost the organisations a lot. It has, also, created transparency, accuracy and frequency, across processes.
The development of smarter software swiftly detects and deters fraud, from both internal and external threats. Technology can be used in monitoring both the national and state budgets; and execution of projects can also be, effectively, monitored. Information bordering on government activities and how the ruling party disburses public funds can now be tracked.
In Uganda, TI Uganda recently launched a project, which has been simply referred to as ‘Promoting social accountability in the health sector in northern Uganda’. It is now possible for the people of Uganda to monitor their local health centres using tools, such as web applications, mobile phones and radios, among others.
I will be highlighting and systematically profiling three technologies that will, if effectively adopted, do Africa a whole lot of good, in terms of tackling corruption and ensuring that public funds are distributed evenly, across every facet with a view to growing the economy.
- Big data
Wikipedia defines Big data as ‘a field that treats ways to analyse, systematically extract information from, or otherwise, deal with data sets that are too large, or complex to be dealt with, by traditional data-processing application software’.
Big data is the pooled data that shows factual patterns, which can then, be analysed to generate useful information about a subject and how to, effectively, tackle the subject.
According to the United Nations, ‘quality data will lead to improved policy decisions and greater accountability’. Over the years, the United Nations has invested massively in big data and positive effect can be seen, in the way it has revolutionised the sustainable development commitments. With big data, the Africa continent has a game-changer, (if properly harnessed and used). This has the potential to, effectively, wade off frauds. Through big data, fraud analytics spring out and fraudulent patterns that relate to suspicious transactions can now be detected and averted in real-time, preventing stealing!
Due to the nature of blockchain, which operates in a decentralised format, it is quite difficult and almost impossible to steal, from the system, as it ensures a full supply chain of information and transparency. This potential makes the adoption of Blockchain technology so enticing. Blockchain technology will ensure that government’s databases are super secured, with little or no chance of the system, being manipulated for selfish interest.
- Artificial Intelligence
The growth of Artificial Intelligence, since the turn of the decade, has been extremely remarkable and it has shown that, with the right uploaded information, AI can undertake tasks and effectively, get it done. Due to AI’s potential predictive power, policymakers are beaming their searchlight on it, as it has the potential of predicting, detecting corruption perpetrated by both the government and the citizens.
Nigeria and many other countries in Africa can only truly fight corruption by leveraging technology to its fullest. Yes, the three technologies mentioned above will help greatly, so would others. What if Federal Government accelerates making the federal civil service paperless and enthrones the use of e-signatures and bio-metrics as signatures and approvals?
This is why it beats my imagination when I watch, listen, or read about government officials talk about how they are fighting corruption. I simply marvel at how well they try to make a show out of what should be led by technology because you can’t fight corruption by screaming or issuing threats. You fight it by taking certain grand and visible steps weaved around technology.
CFA is the founder of CFAmedia.ng, a business and innovation platform
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