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Kenya's Fight Against Corruption Goes High Tech

  • James Butty

A handful of anti-corruption demonstrators hold a chain during a protest in downtown Nairobi, 17 Feb 2010 (file photo)

A handful of anti-corruption demonstrators hold a chain during a protest in downtown Nairobi, 17 Feb 2010 (file photo)

Anthony Ragui says his website I Paid a Bribe collects stories about bribes paid as well as those who refused to be bribed

The founder of a new website aimed at fighting corruption has called on Kenyans to harness their collective energy against graft. The website I Paid a Bribe allows Kenyans to share their experiences with corruption.

Founder Anthony Ragui said Kenyans are fed up with bribery that is often at the heart of corruption.

“One of the things that happens in Kenya is that Kenyans like to talk all the time. But, because of changes in the world, a lot of this is being done in social blogs, in the social media, on Facebook and all that. All of us young people are all complaining about corruption, and I think ultimately what I got tired of was all of complaining about all these things and doing nothing about it, and I thought that I needed to do something different from what was being done,” he said.

Ragui said he drew some inspiration to start the website from the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East.

“In Tunisia, it took one person to put himself on fire to have a change in that country; in Egypt, it took a very strong person to be able to bring some change in Egypt, and I’m saying it also takes one person to make a difference,” Ragui said.

The website, launched January, is divided into three sections. One section collects stories about bribes paid listing the amount, as well as where and when the incident occurred.

Another section collects information about people who have refused to pay bribes and the third provides a forum for instances of honesty, when a bribe was not required.

Ragui said, while he may not be able to completely reveal every corrupt practice, he would be a happy man if he could change one government ministry.

“What I’m hoping is that, by harnessing the energy of Kenyans and citizens in Africa, we can be able to change how things are done in our continent because, remember, that corruption creates networks of people who are corrupt, and these people make money through corruption. My hope, therefore, is that, [by] using the data we are going to be able to harness from this site, we can be able to change even if it’s one department and how many bribes are paid into it, then we would make a difference,” Ragui said.

He said, while government officials tend to benefit from what he calls “grand corruption,” many of the poor in Africa suffer from “petite bribery.”

“The problem with petite bribery, which is really what we are trying to get [at], is that it affects the poor people, in their villages, in their little towns, and in their big towns from small little things like getting the proper kind of service,” he said.

Ragui said his website encourages every Kenyan to feel free to say what is not going right in their community.

He said he has met with the World Bank and other organizations asking for funding that would make his website more interactive.

“There are a couple of things I want to do. One of them is that I want to do something that I think would be very powerful. I’m hoping to get some donors to help with that, and [that] is building an SMS interface onto the website which then can be used by the ordinary Kenyan to report a bribe via cell phone on an SMS that will go to the database and be uploaded to the site,” he said.

Ragui said, by building the SMS interface, he will be able to reach more Kenyans than he is able to do right now.

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