Exposing World Corruption with a Unique Dataset


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Transparency International started when a rebellious World Bank employee quit to dedicated himself to exposing corruption. Now the organization claims the media's attention for about one week a year when it publishes its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, an index that ranks countries in order of perceived corruption. Find out how the organization sources the data, what an important bias is in that data, and how that data ultimately impacts the world. Alejandro Salas: I studied political science and I got very interested in all the topics related to good governance, to ethics in the public sector, etc., and I started working in the Mexican public sector, and—oh, the things I could see there. I was a very junior person working in the civil service, and I got all sorts of offers of presents and things in order to gain access to certain information, access to my boss—so very early on in my professional career, I started to see corruption from very close to me, and I think that's something that marked my interest in this topic. Ginette: I’m Ginette. Curtis: And I’m Curtis. Ginette: And you are listening to Data Crunch. Curtis: A podcast about how data and prediction shape our world. Ginette: A Vault Analytics Here at Data Crunch, we research how data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are changing things, and we’re noticing an explosion of real-world applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning that are changing how people work and live today. We see new applications every single day as we research, and we realize we can’t possibly keep you well enough informed with just our podcast. At the same time, we think it’s really important that people understand the impact machine learning is having on our world, because it’s changing and is going to change nearly every industry. So to help keep our listeners informed, we’ve started collecting and categorizing all of the artificial applications we see in our daily research and adding them on generally a daily basis to a collection available on a website we just launched. Go explore the future at datacrunchpodcast.com/ai, and if you want to keep up with the artificial intelligence beat, we send out a weekly newsletter highlighting the top 3–4 applications we find each week that you can sign up for on the website. It’s an easy read, we really enjoy writing it, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading. And now let’s get back to today’s podcast. Curtis: We’ve spent a lot of time on our episodes talking to interesting people about what creative things they’ve done with data, like detecting eye cancer in children, identifying how to save the honey bees, and catching pirates on the high seas, but today we’re going to talk about a simple measurement. A creative and clever way to measure something that is incredibly hard to measure. And powerful results come from a measurement that puts some numbers behind a murky issue so people can start to have important conversations about it. And we’re going to look at an example that’s all over the news right now. Ginette: This dataset that’s all over the news right now has an interesting history. While it draws criticism from some sources, it draws high praise from others. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s officially meet Alejandro, the man at the beginning of this episode. Alejandro: My name is Alejandro Salas. I am the regional director for the Americas at Transparency International. I come from Mexico. I started 14 years ago, and I was hired to work mainly in the Central America region, which is also a region where there's a lot of corruption that affects mainly public security, access to health services, access to education. In general the basic public services are broadly affected by corruption. That was my point of entry to this organization. Curtis: Something important to note here is Transparency International’s origins. It’s a surprising story because Transparency Internationa...

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