Where was/is e-government during the current/recent travel crisis? Having been stranded in Tarragona, south of Barcelona, amongst a group
of foreign nationals wanting to get home or elsewhere after a
conference, I thought I should asked the question, what, if anything
could or should e-government have done?
From my view, the first target on the hotel or university Internet connections were the airlines, then the home language newspapers, then
the alternative transport modes, such as buses and trains. I don’t
recall anyone looking at a government page or being directed to one. In
Spain the confusion was compounded by lack of information on the French
Whilst the newspapers made claims about British warships being sent and consular assistance at every airport, we saw none of this. First, one
was advised to stay away from the airports and secondly, how was the
true message supposed to dissipate through the bands of people divided
between the practicalities of needing additional accommodation and
finding alternative transport?
If Martha Lane Fox, founder of lastminute.com, is such a leading light for the UK government,
couldn’t someone have scraped together the intrinsic information from IATA, ABTA and the rest and presented
something? The newflashes were full of people developing applications
for car-sharing across Europe, but part of the issue for travellers to
and from the UK became getting across the Channel.
Much of the information available online or through the BBC World Service appeared inconsistent and focused upon travellers sleeping at
airports, whilst what the travellers themselves need to know were
alternative routes and whether they should take them. After failing to
get a satisfactory solution from EasyJet we resorted to booking the
earliest combination of trains and buses we could get onto, all done
from an Asus EEE over very slow hotel wi-fi at midnight.
If incidents of this type are to become more frequent, as a result of natural occurences, terrorist action or civil disturbances,
shouldn’t we prepare? The Internet was created for military purposes,
the WWW for unifying scientific research, can we now use Gov 2.0 for
joining up information sources? Perhaps it might be the making of
e-government? Was it any better for other nationals? This, of course,
is a UK opinion, although I did initially relate to my conference
colleagues from across the globe!
I’m not forgetting those without access and one of the noticeable factors in the episode was how well verbal messages got around at bus
and train stations and even the airports we weren’t supposed to gather
at. I also noticed the prolific use made of the only available very
dodgy-looking Internet cafes.