Friday, April 20, 2012

Col Pot: No iPad for you!

It’s the classic shock-jock stunt and has been repeated over and over again: sit silently for 30 painful seconds after dropping the question live on air, “Mr Premier, do you know the price of a litre of milk and loaf of bread?”

As brutal and nasty as it is, this age-old circus act does serve some legitimate value in highlighting exactly how out of touch some of our long-serving political leaders can become. It’s a fairly blunt instrument, but the fear of being humiliated on live radio or TV probably serves us well by at least reminding our elected representatives to try to “keep it real” (thanks JR).  However, it might be time to update the question to better reflect the world in which we - and our children – now live.

Given the letter sent to Members of the Western Australian Parliament yesterday, I suggest a far more relevant question to catch our leaders out today could be, “Mr Premier, do you know what an App is?”

To be fair, the letter that anonymously landed in my inbox was signed by the Director General of the Premier’s Department, not actually the Premier – but given his self-proclaimed conservative outlook and overt lack of enthusiasm for technology, the content had Mr Barnett’s fingerprints all over it.

If you haven’t already guessed, the letter and accompanying 8-page report was the Department’s formal response to a push by many MP’s over the past couple of years to make a tablet computer (such as an iPad) part of their standard issue equipment.

Disappointingly, the letter basically says the Department doesn’t support the move and both the Premier and Presiding Officers have already accepted its recommendations. But as is often the case in politics, the devil is in the detail and the biggest disappointments are in the way the full report attempts to justify the recalcitrant decision.

Here are some salient points I picked out this morning and my quick responses below them:


15 Members of Parliament trialled iPads for 5 months last year. Over the next 8 months, the DPC produced its 8-page report. (page2)

QBF response: I don’t want to put too finer point on this, but in the time it took our government to produce an 8 page report that basically says “no”, Apple launched 2 generations of the iPad - and reportedly sold upward of 55 million of them in more than 25 countries.


Of the MP’s in the trial (page 4): 
  • 93% reported that the iPad met their business needs
  • 100% were satisfied with the simplicity of use
  • 85% were satisfied the iPad would reduce dependency on paper
  • 93% were satisfied with using the iPad to access their email and calendars
QBF response: Ummm, yes – these devices are very convenient and that’s why MP’s have been advocating for them to be provided.

In fact within 90 days of its release, the iPad is reported to have penetrated more than 50% of Fortune 100 companies in the U.S. Research in 2011 by Frost & Sullivan shows that iPad usage in workplaces increases employee productivity, reduces paperwork, and increases revenue. It continues, estimating "The mobile-office application market in North America may reach $6.85 billion in 2015.”


“Documents in iPad Apps are not generally compatible with PC applications (such as Microsoft Office)” (page 6)

QBF response: This is simply incorrect and damages the credibility of the whole document. There are a number of very well-used Apps that create, read and write Microsoft Office documents.


The iPad is very good for reading and marking up documents…but is not generally suited to creating large or complex documents. (page 6)

QBF response: It IS very good for reading – and that is presumably why our Premier and Education Minister launched a state government program to fund 900 iPads for 1st and 2nd year school kids 6 weeks ago – read the media statement.

Even the US Federal Aviation Administration has approved the iPad for in-cockpit use which resulted Alaska Airlines becoming the first airline to replace pilots' paper manuals with iPads, weighing 0.68 kg compared to 11 kg for the printed flight manuals.


Corporate documents that are created or modified on an iPad may be lost or inadequately managed if not transferred to a server. (page 6)

QBF response: Every MP has a laptop for which the same threat exists: Many of them use these machines at Parliament House, which operates its own network and offers no connectivity to Member’s electorate offices. This forces them to save documents they use at Parliament (or working remotely without any connectivity to either network) locally on the laptop. To further complicate things, Ministers have a 3rd, independent network they must also use. This is an education issue, not hardware.


MPs could adopt lower levels of security and usage behaviour which could place themselves and information at risk.

QBF response: Good grief! We are talking about the people WE elect to write our laws for goodness sake! If we can’t trust their “usage behaviour” on a device that every second 16 year old kid has in their school bag, our State is in dire trouble.


An iPad and cover costs $1,000 (page 7)

QBF response: Rubbish! Pick up the phone and ask for a volume deal – just like the State Government Education Department did to get their 40% discount.


“Most State and Federal jurisdictions are trialling iPads and some have rolled them out. More detailed information on this status could be obtained if required” (page 8)

QBF response: What on earth did you guys do for 8 months? This is another blatently incorrect assertion. I’ve personally sat through a number of Ministerial Council meetings where EVERY Minister from every other State referred to the reams of paper that my boss had on one multi-purpose 1 cm thick device – a government issued iPad.


And my favourite…

iPad’s create the potential for “security risks; including: loss or leakage of sensitive information, identity theft…” (page 6)

QBF response: If this is true, the bad news for the Government is there are already thousands of risks out there in the iPads being used by its own agencies and departments. But before the security police kick down the doors of Synergy or the Department of Health, perhaps they should look a little closer to home at  a few people with lot of secrets including Director of Government Media, Dixie Marshall and by the looks of this incredibly ironic piece of Hansard from 30 November 2011, our Deputy Premier, Dr Kim Hames:
“Luckily I have my iPad to help me define the term — Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie.”

To really illustrate the point that this report is not about any real threat to security, the Pope sending his first Tweet from his iPad:

And President Obama about to board Marine One with his iPad under his left arm:


Come on Premier, how can the people who write our laws possibly have a good understanding of their constituents if you won’t provide them with the tools most of us in the real world use every day?

WA – Wait Awhile indeed. :-(

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