Stone age mentality in the digital age

2012-01-18 09:46

While technology has taken root in the more developed parts of the world, despite needing it here in sunny South Africa, we are still way behind the curve.

Recent reports have indicated how ordinary people are exploiting the benefits of technology in accessing government services.

A Canadian was allowed entry into the US when he showed border control a scanned copy of his passport on his iPad. It seems normal that as the world goes digital, this kind of thing should become quite common.

Unless you're here.

I went to the local post office to pick up a registered letter and even though there was no indication on the slip, the postal worker demanded to see my ID. No, worries, had it on my BlackBerry.

"No that won't work, I have to physically handle it," she said.

Handle it? Is she also required to stroke it? Whisper in its ear and cuddle it afterward?

It's ridiculous that when we're living in so-called modern times, people have stone age mentality.

The department of justice in Cape Town was no better after I visited there to pick up a copy of my divorce decree.

I saw virtually no computers in the building, scanners were inoperative or unattended; business was conducted with a long and onerous paper trail. Forget privacy.

I sat there, listening to the personal issues and travails of complete strangers. There was no way they could email me a copy of my decree, because it's not recorded digitally at all.

If you visit the traffic department to make a licence appointment, you have to queue to pick up a form. I'm not making this up and it boggles the mind.

Surely they could allow the option to download the form to streamline the process that takes around an hour - for an appointment.

Even companies that are digital on the face of it, have unnecessary concealed layers.

Pick n Pay has this novel idea of its store card, where you sell your purchase preferences to the company for around 1c per Rand spent.

They will not allow you to log in to your account and check purchases, even though they have detailed records of what those are.

Technology in my view must facilitate more freedom, openness and transparency. It must be the motivator to drive innovation and competition that stimulates not only business, but progress in society in general.

However, it seems that there are forces, not unlike those in the 15th century that wanted to silence the likes of Copernicus and Galileo, that view technological progress as a threat and wants to retain, at all costs, the status quo.

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