EDITORIAL: Tap blockchain to help beat corruption

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - The new data-sharing technology can help the government and citizens understand what needs fixing.

In a bid to boost government transparency and accountability, new technologies should be explored and used to fight corruption more effectively. One of the most promising technologies is called blockchain, which is essentially a list of records linked together using crytography and time-stamps. This forms an endless blockchain resistant to any modification of the data it contains.

According to Dr Torplus Yomnak of Chulalongkorn University, blockchain has the potential to help the government understand citizens better and more precisely when it comes to corruption and related issues. Based on research, anti-corruption efforts can be more effective if citizens of different age groups and in geographical areas of the country are better understood.

In other words, perceptions vary, as do people’s experiences with corrupt practices. For example, residents of the northern province of Nan are more concerned about deforestation than residents of, say, Nakhon Ratchasima in the Northeast, who pay more attention to efficient use of tax money in public school projects.

Older people also have different real-life experiences of corrupt practices  than do younger people, especially the so-called millennials. As a result, age and other demographic factors play a major role in shaping perceptions and triggering reactions to corruption and related issues.
In Thailand there are currently about 40 government and non-governmental organisations involved in combating corruption. Some are better known and more successful than others. Their missions and objectives also vary. Most are designed to prevent corrupt practices in the first place, while two state agencies are empowered to suppress and enforce anti-graft laws, namely the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission.

Several entities are also designed to educate the general public and younger generations about the perils of corrupt practices and their negative impacts on national development, especially with regard to losses of taxpayers’ money or its inefficient use. Networking and social media have become a key feature of their anti-corruption efforts, which include those supporting and encouraging people in all walks of life to help expose corruption.

Overall, transparency in all government activities, especially public procurements and bidding for government contracts, is crucial, and so is the accountability of state officials and politicians responsible for these schemes. Accountability can be enhanced when anti-graft laws are strictly enforced, covering the legal requirements on asset declaration for officials and politicians concerned.

Based on experiences in other countries, strong government involvement appears to be a critical factor for successful anti-corruption and related efforts. For example, the Lapor project in Indonesia is led by the government and rated to be highly successful, with more than 620,000 reports and 290,000 users nationally in 2015. In Vietnam, the Da Nang Citizen App, which is part of a “smart city” project, is also quite successful with more than 36,000 reports of corruption in 2016-2017.

Besides government involvement, other important factors for success in anti-corruption efforts are citizen feedback and the use of open data to help boost data sharing and inter-project and inter-government-agency collaboration. As in the case of Vietnam’s Da Nang Citizen App, it is obvious that smartphone technology will further boost the role of citizens and that their feedback will help make anti-corruption efforts more effective.


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