Blog Post 8: Digital Citizenship

Our guest today, David Eaves, shared some interesting and expert opinions on how the government is using (or trying to use) technology to work more efficiently and successfully. In particular, I thought his emphasis on the importance of non-technological skills like practicing empathy, understanding how the government works, and negotiating was surprising and intriguing. The fact that someone so deeply involved in the implementation of technology in government didn’t come from a technological background and wasn’t a coder was eye opening in the sense that it shifted the emphasis of the conversation from a technological perspective to a more political one.

Another interesting takeaway from the conversation was the relative degree to which government use of technology is all over the place. Government, after all, appears to be a large and powerful actor with control over the population. Having grown up in the age of the internet, it’s surprising to me that the government is so behind in implementing the kind of technology that is used with such ease in the private sector, and that there are no universal technologies that state and local governments make use of across the board. Moreover, government seems to have not only a control over, but also an awareness of who the population is, where they live, and bits of personal information about them. After all, the amount of times we write down our name and address on a government form is quite high. Nevertheless, the government doesn’t actually have a universal database where all these things can be found. Instead, each department and local government has to keep track of all the information. I guess that this shouldn’t be so shocking, but it comes as a surprise and leaves me with a perception of our government as heavily fragmented (and inefficient).

This perception of government inefficiency was reinforced for me a little bit after class. I had to go to the post office to mail in a request for an absentee ballot to vote in New York. It seems very inefficient and more difficult that every single person requesting an absentee ballot needs to go to the post office to send in a handwritten request, and that those requests then need to be individually read, processed, and responded by real people. The ease of submitting a request by computer and then receiving a ballot digitally is just so much greater. Even if that ballot would then need to be printed out and mailed in order to preserve the security of my vote, the process would still be down to one letter being sent from three. On the whole, it is a little bizarre how far the government has to go before technology is implemented to a stronger degree in governance, and there seems to be a lot of opportunity in the field of technological integration in government.

2 Comments »

  1. Jim Waldo

    November 8, 2016 @ 9:14 PM

    1

    A nice post…

    I think one problem is that we tend to think of “the” government, when in fact there are lots of different governments–from local city and county governments, to states, to the federal government (which is itself a lot of different departments and organizations). Some of these government agencies are technically very sophisticated (the cities of Cambridge or Boston, the NSA) while others are pretty backward. And, as you say, this leads to a lot of complexity and inefficiency, much of which was designed in to the Constitution.

    It isn’t clear to me that this is necessarily a bad thing, or that it can be fixed. Do you have ideas that could make things better?

  2. school of applied science

    November 10, 2016 @ 8:34 PM

    2

    Great post about topic “Digital Citizenship”, good luck for next article

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