When I was an Inspector I used to love visiting the chemical plants. I watched new technology create plastics as hard as steel, new steels being made that lasted longer and resisted corrosion and watched new vehicles become more fuel efficient with computerization. When I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, no one would have dreamed about getting 300 horsepower out of a car that got 30 miles per gallon but computers made this all possible. Technology is a wonderful thing but all the technology above is targeted towards a specific constituency. There was a need before there was a technology for the most part.
I can also tell you that there is nothing more frustrating than watching government technology grow by leaps and bounds, leaving its constituents behind, costing taxpayers time and money both directly and indirectly. Try using a website that has only been optimized for the latest version of Windows Explorer with another Browser such as Chrome or Firefox and you will miss important content, usually of course, the content you are looking for. If there is anything more frustrating than receiving a reply back from a civil servant in Word 2010 when you’re working with Word 2003, I want to know what it is. What’s worse, is that most government employees are not conversant with the features of the current version of their software before the latest version is imposed upon them and their unsuspecting constituents, who keep paying for the cost of the upgrades in time, lost productivity and frustration.
Back in the dark ages, one of my concurrent duties as a manager was to take over an IT Dept that was on the brink…I couldn’t figure out why we were buying computer monitors capable of displaying 64 million colors when most were used for word processing; I couldn’t figure out why I needed hi-speed hard drives when I wasn’t crunching numbers and above all, I couldn’t figure out why I was buying new word processing software every year when we just finished class for the current version. We saved the taxpayers a lot of money…
I am not against technology but I am against leaving the people that you serve without a reliable line of communication. Before an Agency IT person buys another piece of software, because some magazine recommended it or they have been assimilated into the cult that is Apple and Microsoft, look at your constituents. Look at what they need and the cost for the constituents to convert to the latest software. We look at cost/benefit analysis in all sorts of areas of government…why not here? Above all, if you have something that is serving the people well, internally and externally, leave it alone. Being ahead of the curve sometimes means leaving the people you serve behind and for government to be effective and meaningful shouldn’t we all get there……together.
JC, fantastic article. You have a unique perspective that many of us don’t. We’ve become a culture obsessed with the latest and greatest. All the marketing, advertising and sales pitches have conditioned us to think that if we don’t have the latest version, we’re missing out on something. This is particularly true on the consumer side of tech. Is there really that much functional difference between an iPad 2 and iPad 3?
Point well made. I work in Public Health and with the current trend in eHealth everything is being pushed to the web. I constantly hear “well…they can always go to the internet to find…” While it is impressive that 82% of households have internet access, the other 18% comprise roughly 65 million people. Furthermore, of the 82% how many of those homes have only one person the is tech savvy? I am also completely behind technological advances, internet colaboration and social media. But how about those who are being left behind in this technological iceflow?
How do we reach them? I would be interested in hearing how others propose to address this population. My fear is that those of us who understand this shortfall are few in number and will be overshadowed by the Tech Revolution. Any thoughts?
Ahhh, the sound of the customer perspective. Great message that I would hope all involved in the areas of communiation and engagement are familiar. Another common phrase in Aus is that those wilthout can access it through our public library systems.
Will watch attentively to see if there are innovative solutions proposed to Elizabeth’s last questions.