Are emerging technologies helping win the fight against corruption in developing countries?

Adam, I., and Fazekas, M. (2019). Are emerging technologies helping win the fight against corruption in developing countries? Pathways for Prosperity Commission Background Paper Series; no. 21. Oxford, United Kingdom

This paper systematically takes stock of the latest academic and policy literature that sheds light on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools and their impact on corruption. The tools reviewed include digital public services, crowdsourcing platforms, whistleblowing tools, transparency portals, big data, distributed ledger technology (DLT), and artificial intelligence (AI). We scrutinise the evidence on various technologies’ effectiveness, drawbacks, and even potential misuse that enables corruption. Drawing on the commonalities across the different technologies, it appears that ICT can genuinely support anti-corruption by impacting on public scrutiny in numerous ways. For example, by digitising public services and enabling corruption reporting, it can promote transparency and accountability, facilitate advocacy and citizen participation as well as closer interaction between government and citizens. However, ICT can also provide new corruption opportunities related to the dark web, cryptocurrencies, or simply through the misuse of well-intended technologies such as digital public services and centralised databases. Our findings underline that ICT is not per se a panacea against corruption, and it can also play into the hands of corrupt officials. Importantly, the existence of ICT tools does not automatically translate into anti-corruption outcomes. Rather, impact hinges on the suitability of ICT for local contexts and needs, cultural backgrounds, local support and skills in using technology.

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