More about the Project




Project's Mentors

Working Bibliography and Internet Sources

NGOs and Information Technologies


Selected Sources on e-Government in the CR

Selected On-line Conference Papers

Other Important Sources




Ondrej Cisar

Research Proposal for the 2002 International Policy Fellowships (IPF)

Strategies for Using Information Technologies for Curbing Public-Sector Corruption: The Case of the Czech Republic

Executive Summary
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.

Current Situation
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 officials.

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 campaign
* 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 gains

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.

Key Issues
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 is underestimated
* the involvement of non-state actors is underdeveloped

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 providers
* 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 consequences are:
* 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 (corrupt) activities
* draining away valuable personal and financial resources through channeling them into strategies with a limited impact
* 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 software providers)
* 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

Policy Recommendations
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 bureaucrats.

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.

Time Schedule

Burian, Michal (1999). "Korupce ve svete" [Corruption across the World]. In Korupce na cesky zpusob [Corruption - Czech Style], eds. Pavol Fric et. al, 255-293. Praha: G plus G.
Castells, Manuel (1996). The Rise of the Network Society. Malden and Oxford: Blackwell.
Heeks, Richard (1998). Information Technology and Public Sector Corruption. Manchester: Information Systems for Public Sector Management Working Paper Series, no. 4.
Kabele, Jiri (1999). "Ceska byrokracie a korupce" [Czech Bureaucracy and Corruption]. In Korupce na cesky zpusob [Corruption - Czech Style], eds. Pavol Fric et. al, 211-254. Praha: G plus G.
Reinicke, Wolfgang (1999-2000). "The Other World Wide Web: Global Public Policy Networks." Foreign Policy: 44-57.
Stark, David and Laszlo Bruszt (1998). Postsocialist Pathways. Transforming Politics and Property in East Central Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Stark, David and Laszlo Bruszt (2001). Organizational Innovation and Interactive Technology among NGOs in Postsocialist Eastern Europe. Research Proposal.
Vladni program boje proti korupci v Ceske republice [Governmental Program for Curbing Corruption in the CR] (1999).
Wang, Hongying and James Rosenau (2001). "Transparency International and Corruption as an Issue of Global Governance." Global Governance 7: 25-49.
Zysman, John and Steven Weber (2000). Governance and Politics of the Internet Economy - Historical Transformation or Ordinary Politics with New Vocabulary? The Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, Working Paper no. 141.

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