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Technology for society (7)

Ike Señeres .

Seventh part

I REMEMBER that not too long ago, somebody described the role of government in computerization as somewhat akin to that of someone who should remove the roadblocks so that a speeding ambulance could get through and reach its destination, presumably the emergency room of a hospital. In that analogy, it is clearly suggested that the role of government is not to drive the ambulance, but to clear the roadblocks. In a manner of speaking, it could be said that in this analogy, the ambulance owner is the service provider and the government is the policy maker. Simply explained, the business of the service provider is to transport accident victims or sick people from a point of departure, perhaps an accident site to a point of arrival, most likely a clinic or hospital. Conversely, the business of government is to regulate and promote the operations of ambulances, so that these could be dispatched if and when needed.

Looking at this analogy another way, it could be said that the role of private sector providers is to build and maintain the telecommunications infrastructure so that voice, text and data signals could go through, from a point of origin to a point of arrival. In this case however, the role of the infrastructure owner is to make sure that the signals are more than good enough so that the messages or packets could arrive with the right speed and accuracy. It is presumed that in this analogy, the infrastructure owner is the carrier, a concept that is akin to the idea of the ambulance being a carrier. However, the analogy is somehow defective because it is implied that the carrier is presumably also the owner of the information highways where the signals would pass. In the analogy of the rushing ambulance, the presumed owner of the roads is the government, and that is why it should be tasked with removing the roadblocks.

More often than not, it would be difficult to deploy technology in any setting not unless there is a policy framework for it. Some might say that say that a legal framework is needed instead of a policy framework, but as it usually turns out, the former would usually precede the latter. Whatever is the case, what usually happens is that technologies emerge and enter the market sooner than policies could be framed, hence the usual gaps that occur in between. What makes matters worse is that government programs and projects could not usually be implemented in the absence of the necessary policy frameworks. From a good angle, we should be able to see that policies, plans, programs and projects are actually parts of a seamless supply chain that should keep on rotating on its own as soon as it is primed.

Generally speaking, policies could either come in the name of laws or executive orders as the case may be. Although executive orders could not take the place of laws, it could happen that these could serve the same purposes in the meantime that the necessary laws are not yet passed. That is what happened in the case of the executive order for the Freedom of Information (FOI), which could be seen as a temporary measure in the meantime that the FOI law is not yet passed. No, I am not saying that the Palace is faster than the Congress, but seems to be happening is that the Bureaucracy seems to be slower than the Palace in implementing what the President wants, in terms of what he wants done and how soon he wants it to be done. It seems however that the President knows what the problems are, and that is why he is removing bureaucrats who unable to deliver results as they are supposed to.

In so many words, the President has already given instructions to break out the information silos and to interconnect the information islands within the Bureaucracy but up to now, it seems that so many bureaucrats are unable to follow the President’s instructions. Despite the executive order for the FOI that would have been the right justification to bring out information to the public, computerization programs have been generally slow in many government offices. Hopefully, these offices would not use the Data Privacy Act (DPA) as their excuse for not bringing out the information, because the DPA is not supposed to work against the public interest. In a manner of speaking, it could even be said that the DPA could support FOI goals, in such a way that information could be brought out without violating privacy rights.

Just to cite a few examples, it appears that the government has not yet defined the policy framework that would encourage and provide incentives for the use of the internet cloud, big data, the internet of things (IOT) and artificial intelligence, among others. Again generally speaking, it could be said that these four phenomena could be classified in the category of “content”. That said, it could also be said that the other important category is “infrastructure” which should also be a top priority. As I see it, “manpower” is the third category that would complete the troika of resources that could make these four phenomena move forward. Surprisingly, we seem to be taking “manpower” for granted, not realizing perhaps that people also have to keep up with the advances of technology, even if we could say without any doubt that people are more important than machines.


E-mail: iseneres@yahoo.com


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