Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Of Paper and Tablets

There are so many reasons why the procurement of tablets for TDs in order to save money on paper is a stupid, idiotic idea, I thought it would have been facetious to actually give it any thought.  Then, on the News at One, Oireachtas head of Communications Mark Mulqueen comes on the radio and says that it will save money in the long term, as part of a move towards "the paperless office".

Now, I work for IBM, and this blog and its contents have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the company, nor my position in it.  However, my professional career affords me some credibility in passing judgement on this strategy.  It's bogus.

First, you don't initiate a move to a paperless office by giving everyone gadgets.  Why not laptops, desktops, phones, Internet TVs?  What about phablets, everyone's gotta get one of those too, right?  If a TD has an email address - and as I understand it all of them do, whether they use them or not - then they can expose that email address on whatever client they see fit, and indeed all of them.

Second, what's the security strategy for this paperless office?  What is the document management system that they're investing in?  What is the collaboration infrastructure for drafting, amending, and annotating bills as would have been the case with the paper based system?  Is it integrated with existing communications systems such as email, and the Oireachtas Intranet?  Is there a VPN strategy for TDs working from home, or constituency office?  What asset management system is being used to track what goes on on the devices?

Third, what about appropriate usage? Are there misuse policies (for TDs surfing to bikinibabes.com or whatever)?  Are there policies on app downloads, and - if these are LTE devices with roaming - what is it legitimate for TDs to buy?  Do they submit expenses for bills, or are these centrally delivered, so whatever games they want to download are paid for by me, the sap taxpayer?

Fourth, how much does paper cost, and how much of that cost will be immediately offset by this purchase?  How does the return on investment model roll out over time?  What's the breakeven point?

There are two stark realities that I want to conclude on.

First, TDs will use their tablet computers to read the Irish Times and Independent, to read emails (those of them who use email), some may take notes, and most will play Angry Birds.  They will not use the tablets to offset paper based processes, they will not reduce the costs of paper based processes, and they will save no trees.  Furthermore, with an established precedent, TDs will seek to upgrade their devices on an annual basis, as backwards compatability issues can be used to justify such renewals.  Despite Mr Mulqueen's protestations that these devices will remain the property of the Oireachtas, the old iPads will find their way into kids school bags and spouses home offices and will never be seen again, just like old iPhones do.

Second, they should have them.  Our TDs represent me, and represent our country.  We want to be seen as being at the forefront of modern technology if we are going to attract FDI, and nothing shouts "luddite" like a TD slapping the side of a bricked four year old laptop on a train and shouting "work, you bastard, work".  Just don't tell me it's part of some god awful paperless office strategy that doesn't exist, and for which the ROI is so far out of sight it wouldn't show up as a speck on a Hubble picture.  We're not idiots.  And fair play to Eamon Maloney for highlighting this hypocrisy.

1 comment:

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