We love technology — most of the time.
In the newspaper industry we’d be slowed down without it. We love our digital cameras, recorders, smart phones and layout programs.
Gone are the days of physically cutting copy and waxing. Most of us don’t miss it — though the ease with which everyone can fire off an email makes us a little nostalgic for the era of longhand and postage some days.
We have huge respect for the journalists in Japan who, after the devastating earthquake in 2011, wrote entire editions of newspapers longhand and painstakingly copied them by hand too, so that people in the worst hit areas could get some idea of what was going on.
But there are definitely cases where we’ve become too reliant on technology.
We see it when the power goes out. Many stores have to actually close their doors, totally unable to function without the computer systems that run their tills. They are literally unable to serve customers without their gadgets. And of course, a great many people don’t carry cash anymore; the only method of payment they’ve got in hand is a card of some variety.
But these are relatively small inconveniences. Where we see real problems are when government software goes on the fritz.
Take, for example, the scandal of the Phoenix payroll system rolled out for federal government employees this year, in spite of the fact that systems weren’t ready to take the pressure.
It’s left such a mess in its wake that, even now, months later, the problem has yet to be fixed.
The price tag for that as-yet incomplete fix? $50 million, CBC reports.
Canada’s public broadcaster has been on top of this story for months, telling the personal tales of people who’ve been seriously hurt by this technological glitch. Some haven’t been paid since last February. Many of those are the most vulnerable types of workers, like interns.
Some have been forced to make the unenviable decision to quit because they just couldn’t wait any longer for a pay cheque to come through. Others have incurred debt (on which they are paying interest) as they try to hold out.
One talked about eating nothing but a handful of salted rice each day he was so strapped.
Most of us can’t afford to go months without being paid.
One would think someone could simply issue a cheque, but, so wedded to the computerized payroll system are they, that apparently nobody can just take out a pen and a ledger and get on with it.
There’s a lesson in there. Technology is great, but we’ve got to be willing to step away from it when it’s not serving us.