Wanted: A digital platform to curb grand corruption

Thursday March 21 2019

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

When Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa met businesspeople, one complained about importing goods from South Africa through the Tunduma border checkpoint, where he paid all the required import levies.

Yet, he was approached by taxmen in Dar es Salaam, who asked for a Sh2 million bribe. Failing that, his goods were confiscated and held for almost two years.

Surely, this can hardly be an enabling business environment.

Were it not for the meeting with the PM, this businessman would have continued to suffer. How, then, can the common man seek timely justice?

This is the reality on the ground. There is gross injustice by public officials. Grand corruption is rife – and this article discusses how to address these issues using technology.

In the Western world, every services provider – private or public – has been significantly affected by Google Reviews, a digital platform where recipients of services can post comments about their experiences.

Google Reviews have also had an impact on the advertisements sector, as more people rely on the comments of users rather than what advertisements claim.

In the services industry, clients nowadays patronise a service provider after reading comments in Google Reviews. Be it a restaurant, a shop or a doctor’s clinic, clients have supreme faith based on the experiences of others.

The era of “the customer is king” is truly here. A billion-dollar industry, the era of advertisements is steadily dawning – especially for the services industry, with Google Reviews playing a major role.

Google Reviews are an integrated feature within Google My Business and Google Maps. They allow customers to post a review of their experiences with businesses and their products and/or services.

Google Reviews can be a great way for services-centric businesses to highlight their superiority, and showcase their customers’ experiences. The public can be reasonably confident that Google Reviews are genuine, in as much as they are scrutinized by Google editors, and are not easily manipulated, exploited.

Businesses that get enough reviews to get stars associated with their reviews stand out better in business competitiveness.

Google is often the first point of contact involving a customer and a business. From finding out about businesses to planning itineraries for upcoming shopping trips – and to looking up a forgotten phone number – people plug keywords into Google to help them with anything they want to know.

When people want to find out how one business compares with another, they just “Google” for it.

Recognizing this need, Google has rolled out its own reviews feature, which allows users to write reviews directly on the business’s Google or Google Map listing. Since Google Reviews are obviously favoured by the search engine – and show up upon every relevant result – for a business which wants to have a good presence on Google, the best place to start is by getting more positive Google Reviews.

It is not only the private sector that Google Reviews can be positively useful; they also play an important role in the public sector.

Many people are disillusioned by public sector services, whose inefficient delivery is capped by rudeness, arrogance – and, at times, bullishness. Service seekers are more often than not left dissatisfied, and with nowhere to complain.

Most of public service websites give their email address – which is not functional sometimes, with a client’s complaint(s) never reaching the top management.

I can name a number of public sector service providers who are utterly incompetent, and they should be sorted out. Google Reviews can play a major role in exposing such public service providers.

I also suggest a more centralised approach to deal with comments regarding the conduct and performances of public offices.

Rest assured that new technologies like the Google search engine will have a big impact on our social and public life.

Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Independence Movement did not significantly erase the caste system in India.

But, by a technological innovation brought down the caste system: the railway train, in which both the privileged and the untouchables travelled together!

Such is the influence of technology on our social dynamics.

Hopefully one day in the near future, public offices and their officers will be more accountable because of the digital platform.

It is high time that the government introduced a digital platform where people can post their comments about their experiences.

A Special Office should be created to follow up on posted comments with the respective public offices.

This would bring much improvement in efficiency – and also have a big impact on corruption, the father of all evils.

Zulfiqarali Premji is a retired MUHAS professor. His career spans over 40 years in academia, research and public health.