Bribes and Prejudice: India’s Crowdsourcing Revolution

It goes without saying that people throughout the world are enraged by their politicians. There’s nothing quite as human as complaining about the people in charge, whether you’re black or white, old or young, traditional or progressive.

We at Microtask take pleasure in continuing this ignoble practice with our “constructive criticism” of government-sponsored crowdsourcing efforts (see here and here, oh and here).

In the West, government corruption – whether it’s due to lobbying organizations or the most recent WikiLeaks crisis – is a major topic. But spare a thought for the billion or so individuals of India. On the subcontinent, corruption is not only restricted to newspaper stories; it exists at all levels of society, and it’s a genuine and unwelcome intrusion into people’s lives.

Backhanders in Bangalore

High-level corruption is still what makes Indian headlines, as it does throughout the world. In 2010, there were money-laundering ministers, a cricket boss wanted for tax evasion, and top journalists paid by industrial magnates. While they make an excellent copy (just try entering “corruption in India” into Google News), these individuals are merely the tip of the (very filthy) mountain. The following is a more typical, everyday extortion that can happen to anyone: paying off the police to get your electricity connected, at police checkpoints, and so on. It’s at this level that people are fighting back in a crowd-sourcing sort of way – via corruption.

Taking to heart the adage that “sunlight is the greatest disinfectant,” Bangalore-based ipaidabribe invites Indians to air their gripes on Facebook. Thousands of individuals have submitted their submissions, including the location, time, and amount of money spent. The identity of the officials taking bribes is not revealed, so the site isn’t really “name and shame,” but rather a method to assess the scope of the problem. Ipaidabribe allows users to report corruption in three languages, with the goal of eventually implementing it across the world.

Work in progress

Anti-corruption sites are just one of many examples of crowdsourcing innovation in a nation that is flying ahead when it comes to online advancement. There’s been a significant rise in the number of distributed workers, in addition to crowdsourcing as a form of protest. Mechanical Turk is expected to have up to 35% of all Turkers based in India (Amazon has even begun paying workers in rupees). The majority of the crowdsourcing workforce is between the ages of 18 and 30 and has a bachelor’s degree or higher. To put it another way, thousands of young and intelligent people are choosing to participate in a system where corruption – at least in the traditional sense – does not exist. Crowdsourcing work has its drawbacks (spam, low pay, lack of long-term reputations), but it is not a career that requires an uncle in the business to get started. There are many types of online work available to pursue, from basic HITs on Mechanical Turk to larger projects with Freelancer.

Of course, being free of bribery on the internet does not ensure that you will be bribe-free in the real world. However, I believe that the organized, self-reliant, and seasoned Indian crowd will be unwilling to tolerate unchecked corruption.

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