Today marks the 15th anniversary of the United Nations’ International Anti-Corruption Day. On this day, Microsoft is proud to join with others from around the world to use our voice in support of International Anti-Corruption Day and to commit to take steps to reduce corruption.
In recognition of this important day, we are launching Microsoft Anti-Corruption Technology and Solutions (ACTS) to help empower governments and other stakeholders in their corruption fight. With this initiative, we hope to bend the curve of corruption by helping governments innovate with technology, expertise, and other resources.
The UN’s Anti-Corruption Day is observed each year to educate the public on the issue of corruption, to mobilize organizations and governments to work together to help eradicate it, and to highlight successful anti-corruption efforts and initiatives. As noted by the UN, corruption is a complex political, social, and economic phenomenon that is not unique to any single country or government. It undermines democratic institutions, slows economic growth, and contributes to governmental instability. And it is not a new problem. History is rife with examples across the centuries – just this last month, archeologists decoded an inscription by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus to the people of the ancient city of Nicopolis ad Istrum suggesting gratitude and appreciation for a bribe.
The UN reports that the cost of corruption is more than $3.6 trillion dollars a year. This means that trillions of dollars every year are diverted from needed investments in education, health care, and critical infrastructure around the world. The impact of this is profound: Well-intentioned governments are thwarted in their ability to invest in basic humanitarian causes, and the deceptions caused by corruption subvert honest endeavors to foster inclusive and sustainable growth. Tragically, the people who end up suffering most are exactly the people who can afford it least.
The global events of this year have created a world particularly vulnerable to corruption. As noted by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, “Corruption … is even more damaging in times of crisis – as the world is experiencing now with the Covid-19 pandemic. The response to the virus is creating new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need.” Governments around the world are scrambling to address the Covid-19 pandemic – speeding to implement measures to address the health emergency and to provide resources for those hardest hit by the resulting economic downturn. These unprecedented investments, however, have exposed vulnerabilities in supply chains, procurement processes, and corruption controls.
This year’s Anti-Corruption Day theme, Recover with Integrity, serves as an important reminder of the critical importance of ensuring that pandemic resources reach their intended recipients. Unless we reduce corruption by exposing it through greater transparency and address it through more effective controls, recovery will be jeopardized.
At Microsoft, we believe corruption is an urgent global issue that can and must be solved. It will require a focused and comprehensive solution, and it will require governments, civil society, and the private sector all working together to promote transparency, create effective controls, and drive accountability. It is a daunting task, but never before has the world had the kinds of tools to fight corruption that exist today. We know, for instance, that data can illuminate hidden patterns and relationships to provide governments with better tools to ensure public moneys go to their intended purposes. Technology resources such as cloud computing, data visualization, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning provide powerful tools for governments and corporations to aggregate and analyze their enormous and complex datasets in the cloud, ferreting out corruption from the shadows where it lives, and even preventing corruption before it happens.
In the next decade, Microsoft ACTS will leverage the company’s investments in cloud computing, data visualization, AI, machine learning, and other emerging technologies to enhance transparency and to detect and deter corruption. We will endeavor to bring the most promising solutions to the broadest possible audience, using our partner networks, programs, and global employee base to scale solutions through careful consideration of their priorities, technical infrastructure, and capabilities.
Over the last six months, we have already begun to make investments in support of the Microsoft ACTS initiative, including a partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank to advance anti-corruption, transparency, and integrity objectives in Latin America and the Caribbean. Announced in July 2020, we are partnering with the IDB Transparency Fund to help bring greater transparency to the use of Covid-19 economic stimulus funds, building on the Mapa Inversiones platform developed by the IDB with Microsoft support and already adopted by many countries in the region. In the coming months and years, we look forward to additional partnerships, learning as we go, and empowering the work of others.
Microsoft is excited not only by the potential for technology to make positive changes on a long-standing societal problem that burdens the lives of citizens, distorts economic development, and erodes trust in public institutions, but also by the opportunity to partner with the international community in this fight.
We stand with the United Nations and the initiatives undertaken by governments around the world to stamp out corruption, and we look forward to working with governments, civil society, and others in the private sector to help us all recover with integrity.