Monday, May 10, 2010

Canada failing with technology


Canada's Industry Minister admits we are "just not good enough" compared to the rest of the world when using technology.

Tony Clement announced Monday that we need to re-examine the way we approach technology. He released a plan to improve our "digital economy," or technology's impact on how we work.

I actually read through that discussion paper, and found it somewhat depressing. It seemed to be a justification of the CRTC and Draconian Copyright Legislation.

It felt very Canadianish to me.

Right now I am immersed with relatives trying to find jobs as engineers. They all took the step of working for a co-op year as a Bureaucratic Engineer (in-house corporate engineer). One asked around all the other engineers and asked if this was good to get into. To a man, they all had a Dilbert Hull Breach, and said 'Run Away'. 'Get into Management'. 'Do something else!'

I can see why. One had the most tedious job of checking quality control for military aircraft systems. Now, we all know this stuff was made in the 80's and has never been changed since! They use discrete diodes that nobody makes anymore, except a few artisan shops. But the bureaucratic layers are so thick, that no change can be made! Same for nuclear plants! The theory is to stick with the 'tried and true'.

In order to do this, they have very tight specs on their diodes, but nobody can have tight tolerances in small batches. Also, the job is so mind-numbing that all the brains have left, and everybody is asleep! So guess what happens?

That's right! People do the natural thing and start to diddle the paperwork. Let's get some cheap Mongolian diodes, and 'relabel' them. They have a 25% tolerance, but we'll call it 5%. We call these 'counterfeit parts', and some very big companies have been involved. The US military is infested with this, and this poor engineer's job was to check all the paperwork to find these parts. Yuck!

But I digress. The big problem is that bureaucracy penetrates too far down to the technical level. Do you think that e-health will ever work? Is anybody going to bother the phone cartel? Is the Niagara Tunnel a happy thing?

All the smart engineers are becoming lawyers or management consultants. Who wants to be a Bureaucratic Engineer?


arshad said...
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crf said...

" These advances in technology are having profound impacts on Canada’s learning system, both how we teach and how we learn."

SOrry, I just clicked on a random section and got to the above quote, and could read much more.

Bonus: look at the URL for the page of the discussion paper where this quote appears.

An Anecdote:
My father works for a government scientific entity. They had been using the web for conveying some technical scientific information in useful (and perhaps innovative) ways. His highers-up decided that all web pages had to be archivable, translated, and have organisation-wide links and side-bars. They farmed out this operation to an outside consultancy, which took a year, consumed much money, and delivered a product that had all the "look and feel" the government wanted, with the (irrelevant?) side effect that its original useful functionality was lost.

Considering the above anecdote, I wonder how much of Canada's IT growth is to provide similarly useless IT "services" to Government and Industry? Probably a lot. It might be a good thing if general growth in this sector stagnated for a while. It isn't obvious that many IT investments improve business or government productivity.