Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fixing Information Assymetry with a Corruption Portal

Once a friend who used to run his own business told me that to get contracts for his business it was important to know who to pay-off in a given company or government office. There were choices that needed to be made at multiple levels – you should not offer to pay folks who were upright and did not like that mentioned in front of them, you should avoid the operators who would take your money and sit on it and take their own sweet time to move the wheels that you had greased and then there were the efficient operators who would know how to work the system for the right remuneration – you needed to know how to get to this set of people. Also there was a hierarchy of wheels that needed to be greased – you start with the right peon, who connects you with the right officer who connects you and so on so forth – see “ well done abba” for a good example of the hierarchy. You would go and talk to the local paan shop to gain this information about where to start and if you are lucky you may be able to get it right.

That got me thinking – if I had to be in my friend’s position did I have the street smarts to be able to figure this out on my own ? Having grown up in god-fearing , wrinkling-my-nose-at-ostentation kind of family I thought it was unlikely that I would be taken seriously if I went to the local paan shop and asked – “bhaia saamne waale office mein ghoos kaun khata hai ?”. Would’nt it be nice if there was a wiki for answering questions like this – you need to get you sales tax filed in Delhi, get your passport from Ahmedabad, get you well dug by the local municipal office – what is the quickest and cheapest way to get that done – and you get your answers crowd-sourced. That is an excellent idea for a India-get-your-work-done / Corruption Portal – you can ask a question in the portal for a price and people who have registered in that portal answer it and get a portion of the price you have paid if you are satisfied with the results. Hell it may even be great idea to keep the portal completely free like wiki-answers for people like me who have no clue but to employ pimps/agents who are in this business just because they have this very information.

Here’ the icing on the cake – once the mystery of these operations is revealed and the operations become available to the general public, is’nt it just a matter of time when the public would ask the tough questions and ensure that the process that encourages these methods get cleaned up. I am reminded of Chapter 2 in the book – Freakonomics – read about it here.

Update - Here's a website that seems to do a lot of what I was thinking about for so many days - kudos to the creators

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