Colombian investigative journalists are hoping a new digital mapping tool will help improve transparency in the South American country.
The Corruption Monitor allows people to post online incidents – including any misuse of public funds, government aid, bribery, influence-peddling, fraud and forced evictions. It is also intended to name and shame anyone with ties to illegal armed groups.
“The project aims to give greater visibility to incidents of corruption that take place in the country, promote citizen participation and make it easier for journalists to have access to direct sources of information,” said Fabio Posada, who heads up the group of journalists helping to run the initiative, in an interview with TrustLaw.
“We’re convinced about the importance of citizens participating in the social control of corruption by posting their alerts through this tool,” he said.
Posada says the project also aims to promote the work of investigative journalists in Colombia by allowing them to follow up on leads in the reports.
“We believe it’s fundamental to start creating a culture where citizens can publicly denounce corruption, corroborated by a group of professional journalists working with regional newspapers,” said Posada, who heads a nationwide organisation of journalists known as the Editorial Committee.
Corruption Monitor, set up in partnership with the International Centre of Journalists (ICFJ) and Colombian investigative journalists, uses an open crowd-sourcing platform built by Ushahidi, a non-profit technology company specializing in the development of free and open source software.
Users post stories and alerts on the site, which are then plotted on a map. Reports are vetted before they are published.
“What makes our map unique in Colombia is our two-tiered reporting system that allows both journalists and citizens to submit reports about corruption in their communities, municipalities and, on a broader scale, regionally and nationally,” Ronnie Lovler, a Knight International Journalism Fellow, who worked with local journalists to help set up the application.
In Colombia, corruption scandals dominate national newspaper headlines on an almost daily basis, often reporting misuse of public funds by elected government officials.
In recent years, dozens of lawmakers have been sent to prison for crimes ranging from election fraud to murder to criminal conspiracy.
The Corruption Monitor follows another digital mapping platform created by a Knight International Journalism Fellowship project in Panama known as "My Transparent Panama”.
Similar digital crowd-sourcing applications give people the opportunity to report incidents of corruption, from Mamdawrinch in Morocco to StoptheBribes in Nigeria.