|How can modern technologies aid in the fight against corruption?|
Coordinators and rapporteurs:
David Mayle, United Kingdom, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, 8 October 2001
The intention of this workshop was for the participants to explore their hopes and fears regarding the role of technology (effectively, by popular acclaim, Information and Communication Technology) in the fight against corruption. Using some very elementary Scenario Planning techniques, the group would then explore the assumptions underpinning their hopes and fears, and the consequences of those assumptions.
Pioneered by the Royal Dutch Group in the early 1970s, Scenario Development is a methodology used to consider events, however uncertain, and the effects they would have on an organization. The intent is not to assess the probabilities of whatever events have been "predicted" (this is the province of conventional risk-management and strategic-planning techniques) but to explore events which, although perhaps unlikely, would nevertheless have a significant effect.
Rather than "predict" the future, participants explore and experience a range of possible futures through consideration of significant scenarios. Most of such scenarios may not come to pass, but the mental ability to be able to cope with this type of discontinuous thinking is usually a powerful antidote to treating the future as merely a logical extension of the past.
After mutual introductions, the group was asked to divide into two sub-groups: those who felt themselves to be relatively knowledgeable about the technology, and those who felt relatively naive. Each group then used their own circumstances and experience to brainstorm their dreams/expectations, and then consolidate these into 3 key points which they duly presented to the "other" group. The other group, who had not been involved in the emergence of these key points, were then invited to "surface" the assumptions implicit in the deliberation.
Interestingly, both groups came up with very similar points. Technology, it was felt, could contribute via open government, full disclosure of commercial transactions, empowerment of individuals, and wide, boundary-less communication where secrecy was in general "pushed back".
At this point, certain cultural differences emerged, with delegates from the "more-developed" economies tending to require that certain information necessarily must be kept private (initial examples included both personal and personal-financial data). The group then challenged this notion by attempting to define such "personal data" which should reasonably be kept secret. After experimenting with several definitions (which, at one stage, would allow "Private" companies to keep secrets that "Public" companies would be required to divulge!), the sense of the debate swung quite significantly towards probity requiring "100% disclosure", with all that such a position entails.
The above should not be taken to minimize the very real difficulties faced by the group in the move towards consensus. Issues of cultural sensitivity (including a debate on whether transparency and 100% disclosure would lead to cultural convergence), medical confidentiality, media intrusion, governmental abuse and competitive advantage all arose and were never conclusively resolved.
Nevertheless, the group did concur 2 positions:
In keeping with the spirit of the exercise, wherein the questions were at least as important as the answers, we conclude with some of the unresolved issues: