Its been an eventful year for India, from Common Wealth to 2G scams! Stories of corruption have been emanating from everywhere, television shows, corporate clubs, radio programs to blogs and social media. All media has been bursting into negative content for all involved even before they are pronounced guilty, that is off course in case another scam has not surfaced in the meanwhile.
While the stories have thankfully moved from news outbreaks to progressive debates, the age old culture of corruption seems deep rooted. The solution to this epidemic is as illusive as the cure to the common cold! However, there is no giving up, from Anna Hazare to Dr. Kaushik Basu, there are various attempts by public well wishers or victims to try and resolve the issue.
While most agree that there is no permanent solution to corruption, different schools of thought have emerged from Anna Hazare’s manifestation of the Lok Pal Bill to Dr. Basu’s theory of legalising the ‘giving’ of harassment bribes (bribes that are given to achieve what you are legally entitled to).
However, none of these solutions have been taken up and have only lead to greater dissidence between the government and the common people. While both scream indignation, both are responsible for corruption and you cannot ask two thieves to convince the other to stop stealing. Hence, the economics of any solution is going to be seen as unsustainable by the other who sees less benefit in the proposal.
I believe that the solution to this impasse lies in the process itself! Most common instance of bribes occur when public transacts with the government and their representatives. When a bribe forms a part of the transaction, the bribe is unrecorded and done inconspicuously to allude any knowledge of the bribe by outsiders. This means that the transactions are less transparent and so is the process, hence certain parts of a transaction can be hidden or not shown.
Now consider this, the government decides that only means of communicating and transacting with the government is through the digital media!
When digital mediums like online and mobile are used to make transactions, the instructions and process will have to be standard and transparent. The commonly bribed official may not be able to demand for a bribe as the reason for rejecting or delaying a transaction may be published automatically.
You might say that a lot of people in India do not have access to the internet or a mobile that can facilitate such transactions. If the people stop paying bribes how much will they save and where will this money go? India is the fourth most corrupt nation in the world!
We all know that buying an internet access through a computer or a mobile is cheaper than what it cost to purchase a Television post independence! However, one may still argue that these connections may not be as secure. When the government opened gas lines, we did not question how safe it was. Now a days, we have piped gas connections; I have not seen or heard a single debate on whether a city networked with gas pipes run by a corrupt government is safe, or a dormant volcano?
Hence if the need is created by law, the facility is only going to get cheaper and more secure over time. I may not even need to study the economics, to tell you that government representatives will end up with better salaries due to the improved efficiencies and the reduction in cost and resources by going online.
When a large population moves online, it will result in cheaper connectivity as there would be lesser or no lost mile connection issues left. This will bring about a new ecosystem that is sustained by digital inclusion. It may not result in complete elimination of corruption but will definitely cut the massive scale of corruption!
Citing digital as a solution for corruption may seem rather materialistic as I belong to the field. Albeit, it does seem the most pertinent solution to the issue of transparency between the public and the government which is the root cause of opportunities for corruption.
Would like to hear from you, if my views may have more oversight rather than foresight. All views are welcome as long as they are progressive.