Citizens are reporting crime and corruption to Mi Panama Transparente

Dec 62010

Dozens of reports are being sent to Mi Panama Transparente, the online crowdsourcing platform to track incidents of crime and corruption in Panama.

PANAMA, PANAMA -- The individual and his family were getting into a truck, ready to leave the Sumit park. Everything seemed to be normal except for the fact that the truck was marked with the legend ANAM (National Authority of Environment) in a Sunday afternoon, when no official vehicle are supposed to be on the streets for personal purposes.

A citizen who was also taking a rest in the park with his own family saw the scene and took photos. Then, when he had a chance, he sent a report with photos to Mi Panama Transparente, the website we have launched to track crime and corruption in Panama with citizen's information.

The citizen wrote that he was resting with his family when they saw a ANAM vehicle being used for personal purposes.  "I think it is unfair that they use everybody's money and resources in their own benefit," he wrote in the report.

It is just one example of the dozens of reports sent by citizens over the last weeks, when Mi Panama Transparente's website was relaunched and a short code (5638) was activated. People can send anonymous reports via the Internet or text messages about crime or corruption incidents they are either victims or witnesses.

The first reports of the website are about officials increasing bribe fees, patrolmen who don't buckle up when driving their official vehicles, bars and cantinas selling alcoholic beverages very close to schools, and stash houses in apartment complexes in downtown Panama.

A group of reporters trained by me under the Knight International Journalism Fellowship program is going to investigate some of the incidents, making this the first time the Ushahidi platform is being used by investigative journalists.

Ushahidi, which means testimony in Swahili, is an online crowdsourcing platform that tracks incidents in a digital map. We are tracking crime and corruption with the goal of putting together citizens and journalists who want to reduce crime and corruption and improve the public policies.