New Website Takes Aim at 'Retail Bribery'

March 7th, 2012

Here at the Task Force, we normally look at bribery and corruption on a massive scale. Rulers like Teodoro Obiang or Muammar Gaddafi steal billions of dollars from their own people, often to fuel their own lavish lifestyles. However, this is not the only way that bribery and corruption can affect society in the developing world on a large-scale. The problem of required small-scale bribery for basic services is endemic in many places around the world. This type of activity is often very difficult to wipe out, because of how pervasive is it on the micro-level. The New York Times covered one pair of web activists who are trying to make a difference on this front:

The going rate to get a child who has already passed the entrance requirements into high school in Nairobi, Kenya? 20,000 shillings.

The expense of obtaining a driver’s license after having passed the test in Karachi, Pakistan? 3,000 rupees.

Such is the price of what Swati Ramanathan calls “retail corruption,” the sort of nickel-and-dime bribery, as opposed to large-scale graft, that infects everyday life in so many parts of the world.

Ms. Ramanathan and her husband, Ramesh, along with Sridar Iyengar, set out to change all that in August 2010 when they started, a site that collects anonymous reports of bribes paid, bribes requested but not paid and requests that were expected but not forthcoming.

The article goes into much more detail on how the Ramanathans set out to find a way to combat bribery in the developing world. We’ve seen online technology fuel massive social revolutions over the past few years. The internet has given us an easily accessible tool to organize voices of average people all over the world. Movements like have massive potential to bring about positive social change on the bribery and corruption front. Let’s hope they have the same impact that social media had on revolutionary organizing during the Arab Spring.

Written by EJ Fagan

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