Research Proposal for the 2002 International
Policy Fellowships (IPF)
Strategies for Using Information
Technologies for Curbing Public-Sector Corruption: The Case of the Czech
Proper employment of information technologies
for curbing public-sector corruption is definitely a burning task to be
dealt with if the contemporary technological restructuring is not to bring
disappointment and new corruption opportunities. Although information technologies
possess a real transformative potential, their employment is not self-sufficient.
It must be complemented by other conditions conducive to the task at hand.
This proposal devises a decentralized model of corruption control based
on decentralized information infrastructure for the purpose of preventing
the misuse of the new technological tools. The employment of information
technologies promotes anti-corruption action only when it is coupled with
enabling various actors (private firms, non-governmental organizations)
to participate in the anti-corruption effort. This also thwarts new corruption
opportunities that could arise if technology-enhanced control is concentrated
in the hands of a single actor such as the hierarchically organized state
bureaucracy (for a similar view, cf. Kabele 1999). It is the participation
of diverse interests within the collaborative framework of the anti-corruption
effort that prevents the misuse of the new technological devices and promotes
desirable policy outcomes (cf. Stark and Bruszt 1998). Although the research
focuses on the Czech Republic (CR) the chosen methodology ensures that
the results will be applicable across East Central Europe.
In the decade following the revolutions
of 1989, the East European countries not only embarked on the road of deep
political and economic transformations, but also entered the turbulent
age of global technological restructuring. The information revolution of
the 1990s has brought about profound changes in all social spheres (Castells
1996). In conjunction with the new opportunities and the new problems created
by the boom of information technologies in the private business sector
(e-commerce) the information technologies generated a revolution in thinking
about the future of the governance of public matters (cf. Reinicke 1999-2000;
Zysman and Weber 2000). The unexpectedly rapid development of the Internet
and the Internet-based technological devices is expected not only to reorganize
public administration, but also to make both the public-sector officials
and the executives more accountable to the citizens.
From this vantage point, the soft power
of electronic media should make the notoriously self-interested bureaucrats
to finally pursue the public interest proper. When applied in the field
of public-sector corruption such visions sometimes result in the so-called
'Panoptic vision' (for a critical account, cf. Heeks 1998). This vision
implies that due to the management control made possible by the development
of information technologies the ultimate victory over public-sector corruption
is a matter of several forthcoming years. However, although the new technological
applications have a genuine transformative potential in the field of curbing
corruption, their use must be accompanied by additional conditions if it
is to result in a tangible inhibition of corrupt activities (Heeks 1998).
An important condition for the successful employment of information technology
applications against corrupt activities is the active involvement and participation
of non-governmental actors interested in the quality and the transparency
of public-sector governance (Wang and Rosenau 2001; Burian 1999). The relatively
homogeneous, and vulnerable to corrupt activities, state hierarchies are
being challenged by the diversity of heterarchically organized interests
capitalizing on the new technological infrastructure (Stark and Bruszt
2001). Such a reorganization of public governance ultimately presses for
the restructuring of the state monopoly over public-governance control.
The link between the information technologies, the public sector performance,
and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must be carefully considered
if it is to have a practical value to today's policy makers.
Despite the aforementioned developments,
the application of information technologies for curbing public-sector corruption
in the CR has been relatively modest. This is even more striking when taking
into account the U-turn following the coming to power of the social democrats
in 1998 who, unlike the preceding governments, declared curbing corruption
one of the their main objectives. The government prepared a plan for fighting
corruption (cf. Vladni program boje proti korupci v Ceske republice [Governmental
Program for Curbing Corruption in the CR]) and launched the anti-corruption
campaign "Clean Hands" intended to redress the cases of privatization mismanagement.
Despite several "success stories" the government was unable to mobilize
wider social support for its anti-corruption objectives and its campaign
faded away without a major social impact. It was the opposition politicians
in cooperation with civil society groups such as Transparency International,
who, by lobbing for the adoption of the law on the free access to public
information, contributed to the increasing accountability of public-sector
The current situation should be understood
on the background of the following facts:
* the governmental strategy does not pay
any attention to information technology
* the strategy does not consider employment
of information technologies for promoting communication between various
interested actors to mobilize sufficient support for the anti-corruption
* although the strategy mentions the need
for cooperation with NGOs it basically overlooks the potential held by
the activities of such organizations
* the public debate on the issue is underdeveloped
and limited by the populist effort of political parties to secure electoral
Objectives and Case Study
Given the identified potential of information
technology to substantially contribute to the anti-corruption drive and
to social innovations instrumental in curbing public-sector corruption,
it is important to explore the concrete impediments to a more extensive
technology employment for (1) generating wider social support for the anti-corruption
objectives; (2) providing access for a variety of interested actors; (3)
assisting robust communication channels among the involved actors. Accordingly,
the research project will focus on the governmental strategies for curbing
public-sector corruption; more specifically, on the employment of information
technologies and their ability to facilitate the involvement of non-governmental
actors crucial for building an anti-corruption climate in the society.
The selection of the key issues to be
addressed in the proposed research is based on the careful assessment of
the current situation which displays the following features:
* the present anti-corruption strategies
are formulated in line with the etatisme model
* the employment of information technologies
* the involvement of non-state actors
Accordingly, the policy research will primarily
focus on exploring:
* the main objectives and strategies of
the relevant state authorities in the field
* the information applications considered
by the authorities and the supply of such applications by the software
* the cooperation between the state actors
and the relevant NGOs
Assessment of Alternatives
The alternatives to considering professionally
the information technologies' employment and their ability to promote the
effective communication and information exchange among diverse types of
interested actors, so as to assess the technology's potential for facilitating
successful anti-corruption cooperation aimed at desirable social innovation
and attitudinal change in the society, is the status quo performance characterized
by excessive reliance on rigid anti-corruption methods based mainly on
the insufficient bureaucratic capacity of the state structures. The expected
* growing popular mistrust in public officials
* general indifference to the issue among
the general public and the major institutional actors
* diverting productive resources to unproductive
* draining away valuable personal and
financial resources through channeling them into strategies with a limited
* creating new corruption opportunities
by mismanaging the employed information technology applications
In order to ensure the high standard of
the ultimate policy recommendations the proposed policy project will employ
a multiform qualitative research. The actual research will include:
* a detailed analysis of printed and on-line
resources (governmental documents; internal memoranda, press releases,
and official reports of governmental and non-governmental actors) and a
detailed study of selected newspaper information
* in-depth examination of information
provided by local informants (persons who have already been contacted or
will be contacted in order to facilitate the research)
* investigation of the available sociological
surveys on the perceptions of corruption among the general public
* personal and e-mail interviews with
the persons identified during the preceding stages of the research (the
set of interviewed persons will include (1) public officials; (2) activists
and employees of relevant NGOs; and (3) employees and owners of important
* in the course of the research the available
secondary sources (e.g. scholarly production on other East European countries)
will be compared with the acquired first-hand information to provide a
suitable comparative framework
The results of the research will form
the basis for well-informed policy measures. Preliminarily, the employment
of information technologies should go hand in hand with a greater involvement
of non-state actors in the anti-corruption effort. Otherwise, the well-developed
technological devices would facilitate merely state bureaucrats whose enhanced
technological capacity would result in ineffective institutional development
and creation of new corruption opportunities.
The main focus will be on the ability of
information technologies to enhance the involvement of diverse actors representing
various social interests so as to (1) de-monopolize the anti-corruption
effort; and (2) to enable various actors to obtain information about the
activities of other actors. This would increase the transparency of the
whole system without concentrating the power of control in the hands of
a single institutional actor such as the state. This strategy fully utilizes
the potential of contemporary information technologies. It aims at a decentralized
model of corruption control and therefore, preempts the mismanagement of
information technology by asymmetrically empowered actors such as the state
Dissemination of the Results
The results of the research will be disseminated
through several channels. First, the results of the empirical research
consisting of a detailed account of the impact of information technologies
on the involvement of diverse actors in the anti-corruption effort will
be published in English either as a CEU working paper and/or in an Internet-based
journal so as to make the results easily accessible. Second, an article
in Czech will be published in a relevant Czech academic journal. Third,
in order to popularize the results of the research among the general public
and to alert the target audience (state officials and NGOs) to the results,
a set of short newspaper articles will be prepared for the Czech press.
Fourth, a shorter version of the policy-paper focused on the practical
policy recommendations will be posted on the OSI home page and will be
directly linked to the home pages of the national chapters of the Transparency
International in Eastern Europe.
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Castells, Manuel (1996). The Rise of
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Heeks, Richard (1998). Information
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Kabele, Jiri (1999). "Ceska byrokracie
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Stark, David and Laszlo Bruszt (2001).
Organizational Innovation and Interactive Technology among NGOs in Postsocialist
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Vladni program boje proti korupci v
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Wang, Hongying and James Rosenau (2001).
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