Adam, I. & Fazekas, M. (2020). Are emerging technologies helping win the fight against corruption? A review of the state of evidence. GTI-WP 2020:02, Budapest: Government Transparency Institute.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is often thought of as a uniformly positive tool making governments more transparent, accountable, and less corrupt. However, the evidence on it is mixed and often misunderstood. Hence, this article carries out a systematic stocktaking of ICT tools’ impact on corruption, offering a nuanced and context-dependent assessment. The tools reviewed are digital public services, crowdsourcing platforms, whistleblowing tools, transparency portals, big data, distributed ledger technology, and artificial intelligence. We scrutinise evidence on ICT technologies’ anticorruption effectiveness and misuse for corruption. Drawing on the commonalities across technologies, we find that ICT can support anti-corruption by impacting public scrutiny in numerous ways: enabling reporting on corruption, promoting transparency and accountability, facilitating citizen participation and government-citizen interactions. However, ICT can also provide new corruption opportunities through the dark web, cryptocurrencies, or the misuse of technologies such as centralised databases. The introduction of ICT tools does not automatically translate into anti-corruption outcomes; rather, impact hinges on the matching between ICT tools and the local context, including support for and skills in using technology.