Are clueless politicians holding back IT?

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Politicians are notoriously clueless when it comes to technology. Indeed, a Parliament House staffer once told me that it’s impossible to overstate their level of ignorance. But isn’t it time they caught up with the rest of us?

Last year I wrote about this in the business context, “I don’t understand computers” is not an excuse.

If you own or manage a business that handles information (and which business doesn’t?) then you must understand computers and the Internet. If you don’t, you’re incompetent. Yes, that’s right, you heard me. Incompetent…

In short, you don’t need to know the technology itself, but you do need to know its implications for your business.

Australia’s had a Goods and Services Tax since 2000. If you waved your hand and said, “Oh, I don’t understand GST,” your shareholders would have every right to sack you for incompetence.

Yesterday I wrote about this in the political context for, Are clueless politicians holding IT back?, and as in my business-focussed piece I suggested a checklist for what I reckon they should know.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Or am I right in using the word “incompetent” here?

2 Replies to “Are clueless politicians holding back IT?”

  1. I think you’re pretty close to the mark, both with politics and business (and the rest of my comment relates to both). It’s ignorance; if they refuse to learn it’s incompetence. They’ve not been made to learn because nobody’s quantified the amount of money they’re wasting in doing things inefficiently.

    The first step in resolving this is to get it in everyone’s heads (everyone who isn’t a primary producer or tradie or service worker, any paper pusher, process droid or anyone who produces intellectual property of any kind) that their commodity is information. They may be SMEs, but they don’t recognise that their commodity is data, information and/or knowledge.

    If they don’t manage their commodity properly and efficiently, they are costing someone money. Money’s not flowing as freely as it used to, but efficient information management isn’t a KPI you encounter too often. Perhaps that’s the cultural change to tackle first.

    FWIW I was judging pollies on their IT use during the last ACT election. I wrote e-mails to every candidate who dropped a leaflet in my (physical) mailbox asking about the issues I considered important. One candidate wrote back with almost an essays-worth of information, while my e-mail was ignored by another. A third reply came not from the candidate, but his wife, who promised that I’d get a reply in the next couple of days. I never did hear from him. Next time around I’ll be doing the same. I hope by then that I won’t be surprised to get a reply, but surprised if I don’t.

  2. Quote:


    As you have noted indirectly by the references to Bob Bain’s tweets, I have spent the best part of the last decade complaining that we have government by the clueless, over a place they’ve never been, using means they don’t possess.


    Philip Argy (Australian Computer Society) October 26th. 2009

    ( comment extracted from a heated exchange over the relevance of the Australian Computer Society – an issue that crops up from time to time )

    “government by the clueless”
    “over a place they’ve never been”
    “using means they don’t possess”

    I could argue that certain politicians appear clueless regarding the ease an investor can obtain information from The Australian Stock Exchange web site and I’d suggest this is clearly this a place they’ve never been (otherwise they would know about it) and I’d suggest they could possibly take a laptop computer into Parliament House as indeed Jackie Kelly (my former Member of Parliament) did instead of asking silly questions such as the one Senator Conroy allegedly raised in the Parliament. I believe it was insinuated that my former Member of Parliament was listening to MP3s rather than listening to the Hon. The Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock.

    On another note I was surprised that you didn’t mention Joe Hockey and his flitter with Twitter in the Parliament while Wayne Swan was speaking.

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