A dated but fascinating interview with Eph blogger Ethan Zuckerman ’93.

It’s pretty hard to expect technology to turn non-democracies into democracies. Where I think technology can make a huge difference is where you have a young and fragile democracy. In those cases, I think what helps is finding ways to empower individuals.

Empowering individuals, for example, to avoid systematic corruption –that’s the kind of project which has leverage. Put the customs service online. Customs is a place where there’s an enormous amount of corruption, where goods come in the door and lots of money changes hands under the table. If you can put that system online, it becomes much harder to subvert. When the whole thing is on paper, it’s easy for a corrupt official to charge you money for the stamp or refuse to process your invoice unless they get a bribe. When it’s all online, it’s much easier to say, here’s my money, here’s my form, where’s my shipment?

Interesting stuff. This is strangely enough not unconnected to what I try to do here with respect to Williams. Although Williams is infinitely less corrupt than the sort of places that Zuckerman worries about, there are plenty of issues that should be more widely known/considered/debated. Prior to the web, it was very hard for a non-wealthly alum to have any meaningful knowledge or input into how the College does things. Alas, it is still fair to say that EphBlog’s influence is minimal, but at least it is greater than zero.

In terms of specific examples, I am most proud of our work in Nigaleian. It is not clear to me that the College ever would have fessed up were it not for EphBlog. See also my concerns with conflicts of interests in charitable contributions and with Morty’s salary.

Again, I would never charge Williams with being corrupt. I do believe, however, more scrutiny leads to different and, generally, better behavior.

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