PARIS (AFP) – France is enlisting the help of Malians to police its aid projects in the west African country with an innovative crowdsourcing project asking people to report corruption by text or online.
The foreign ministry's project is the first of its kind in France, which has pledged 280 million euros ($374 million) in aid to Mali after it helped the west African country oust Al-Qaeda-linked groups that were occupying the vast north.
It consists of a website (http://transparence.ambafrance-ml.org/) that geolocalises every development project on a map, giving funding details for each programme, and asks Malians to report any irregularities about the schemes via text message or an online form as part of a "citizen control".
"This site is a promise, that of transparency with regards to the Malians, but also with regards to the French who too often regret not knowing what development aid is used for," Development Minister Pascal Canfin said in a statement on the website.
The site "is accessible to the general public and will allow those people concerned to take better control of the projects being implemented, making French aid more effective," he added in an interview with the daily freesheet "20 minutes".
"If it works, we will be able to extend this to other countries."
Crowdsourcing, or the practice of gathering information from a large group of people -- often online -- is increasingly being used to fight corruption.
Russia's well-known opposition figure Alexei Navalny, for instance, has a website (rospil.info) that asks volunteers to peruse public documents on government contracts and tenders and report any sign of corruption.
Anti-graft watchdog Transparency International has also used crowdsourcing in various countries to report cases of corruption, such as Zimbabwe and Macedonia.
Canfin said the initiative was an "innovation" for France.
"It's the first time that an information system of this scale has been established," he said.
France's aid projects in Mali include fighting against malnutrition, helping farmers, building schools and assisting those displaced by the conflict.