July 25, 2007

Government Web and the Future

A story in the ProJo this morning mentions a Brown University analysis of how effectively US state government make use of the internet. RI came up 30th from 32nd last year and Massachusetts had a huge jump from the 20’s to now being in 6th place.

For some reason this reminded me of college days with my friends. I remember it being clear to us that so many things would make sense if the information were stored electronically. At the time, computers were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are now. Libraries still used card catalogs. Nobody, outside of universities, knew what electronic mail was or had an email address. It wasn’t until AOL and, really, Web browsers that there was an explosion of computer access to the point where people started feeling it was worth the effort to get data into electronic form so that eventually people could have access to it.

However, for a while, we were frustrated at the obvious possibilities and wondered how long it would take before things that you can easily find now on the Mass.gov website — like renewing one’s license, or searching the Mass General Laws would come to fruition.

What obvious near-future possibility exists today, where society is lagging behind the adoption of technology, but the technology is there? I don’t know if there is an obvious one, but I would have to say that an analogous one would not be some advance in interfaces or faster internet. I think that perhaps more automated methods of gathering and organizing information for retrieval would be a significant improvement over the manpower and time that goes into today’s information tech.

The web we have is work intensive and mostly hand-crafted. But it’s also limited by some human’s prior judgment of whether it’s worth the work to make the information available, and how. Automate that job and factor in advances in both storage and intelligent retrieval and you have an explosion of information that gets assembled after the fact rather than before, allowing the uses of that data to be discovered rather than pre-determined.

What do you think? What technology advance is awaiting us around the corner? Aside from the obvious self-chilling chocolate-covered banana. And invisible Hawaiian shirts.

Posted by James at July 25, 2007 8:41 AM
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I wish RI used the internet like MA does. I still have to go stand in line at the DMV for most things.

I'd like to see a better way to transfer money on the internet that was government run and didn't have the fees associated with credit cards, paypal, etc. I'd also like to see this system really handle micropayments well.

I think as GPS navigation systems become more common, there will eventually be a better way to have them route around traffic jams or at least predict drive times based on the actual speed you'll travel rather than the speed limit (for example, I've never done even close to 65mph going up route 93 into Boston).

Posted by: David Grenier at July 25, 2007 10:15 AM

That's a tough one. Almost any idea I've thought of since I read this has been immediately followed by the extensive damage done by unprincipled people with access to the more conveniently stored personal information. So, I think the I'd have to go with DG on the GPS nav for now.

But, a question. Why would you want an invisible Hawaiian shirt? Now, a TUNEABLE Hawaiian might be a different story. I'd buy a shirt where I could alter the hue and pattern with ease...

Posted by: briwei at July 25, 2007 10:22 AM

An invisible Hawaiian shirt is an obvious improvement. If you don't like Hawaiian shirts. :)

Clearly, abuse of technology is a serious issue, but advances arrive regardless of possible abuses, and the ability to mitigate abuses is usually slightly lagging behind...

But it is another interesting area to consider.

What is the next big potential for abuse. I think it will continue to lie in access to information.

Posted by: James at July 25, 2007 12:10 PM

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