Is the Internet Mightier than the Sword: An Anti-Corruption Perspective

Is the Internet Mightier than the Sword: An Anti-Corruption Perspective

Russell Lidman (Seattle University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-489-9.ch019
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This paper considers how to reduce corruption and improve governance, with particular attention to the impacts of information and communication technology. The media and the press in particular have played an important role in opposing corruption. The Internet and related tools are both supplementing and supplanting the traditional roles of the press in opposing corruption. A regression model with a sample of 164 countries demonstrates that, controlling for the independent variables commonly employed in empirical work on corruption, greater access to the Internet explains reduced corruption. The effect is statistically significant albeit modest. It is possible that the social media will have a growing impact on reducing corruption and improving governance. A number of examples of current uses of these media are provided. Recent insight and experience suggest how the newer information and communication technologies are somewhat tipping the balance toward those opposing corruption.
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Transparency is a precursor to the functioning of democratic governance, and the impact of the press is clearly an illustration. Glaeser and Goldin (2006) and Menes (2006) provide empirical evidence for the role of the press in reducing corruption in the US, albeit over a period of many years. The use of the print media to control corruption can produce results in a relatively brief time, as Reinikka and Svensson (2003, 2005) demonstrate in their work on Uganda.

One of the significant issues in corruption control is who comprises the foundation of the opposition to corruption. Klitgaard et. al. observe that, “Because the benefits of preventing corruption are … widespread, the logic of collection action predicts that an effective interest group will be hard to mobilize and sustain” (2000, p. 12). Others disagree, pointing to the foundation for groups in opposition to corruption. One perspective, see Levy (1966), is that those with qualifications and skills who would benefit from a meritocratic system and would lose their opportunities in the presence of corruption, form the basis of an opposition to corruption. Similar arguments about groups that will stand in opposition to corruption are found in Myrdal (1968), Golden and Picci (2006) and Holmes (2006). The behavioral economics literature has provided useful insights into the inclination or the disinclination toward corrupt practice. See, for example, Gintis et. al. (2005), Henrich (2004) and Kahan (2005). Ostrom (2005) observes, based upon the behavioral literature, that about two-thirds of individuals exhibit some levels of trust and reciprocity, and this is largely independent of location. The literature taken together suggests a role for the internet and the social media in reducing corruption. The information and communication technologies in general lower the costs of individuals communicating with one another locally, and globally for that matter. There are many stakeholders in opposition to corruption, and with technology their collective action is easier and less costly to sustain.

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