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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Paperless Government

The Welsh Assembly has already made attempts to run a paperless Government, with varying success. All the agendas come to us electronically and we print them off for committee meetings. Having said that though, I believe we do generate less paper than we could do if we did not have this reliance (some would say over-reliance) on ICT.

Now it seems that the UK Government is trying to follow suit, though I do not expect to see computers on the benches of the House of Commons anytime soon. According to the Telegraph the days of ministers lugging round heavy Red Boxes filled with official papers could finally be coming to an end. This is because Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has indicated he wants to see them computerised.

Mr Maude believes that the UK should be emulating Estonia, where paperless systems are already in place:

He told how on one visit to the country he had gone into the Cabinet room and seen that ministers were all working from screens rather than notes.

''We need to get our technology much better,'' he said. ''The technology that we had in the Cabinet Office that I inherited... I could not take my Red Box home on disc.''

I have to say that despite a lot of Ministerial work in the Welsh Government taking place by e-mail, it is my observation that Ministers here still take home traditional boxes stuffed with paperwork. Perhaps they should follow the UK Government's example.

More importantly, why are Welsh schoolchildren still using paper and pens when in parts of England they work off their own computer tablets? It really is time we caught up.
I do not expect to see computers on the benches of the House of Commons anytime soon
Indeed, though I did spot a noble Lord reading his notes from a hand-held in the Health and Social Care debate yesterday.
I'm a techno computer geek; was writing code to do serious number crunching on supercomputers yonks ago; my PhD is in chemistry (computational chemistry; helping to solve the 3D structure of the human brain's dopamine receptors to aid rational drug design (agonists, partial agonists, antagonists, partial antagonists) with a cleaner profile (less side effects for patients); anyway that was the goal, and when it came to do 'the departmental talk' I used a slide projector and overheads, I could not rely on a laptop.

The one time I used a laptop (at Chicago University) with PowerPoint, the computer froze and I had to reboot it and then get back to the slide, and it happened again. Real pain. An overhead projector is simple (comes with a spare bulb) and many were made around the corner from where I used to live (at the Gnome factory at the junction of Caerphilly Road and Maesycoed Road in Cardiff, now gone (but not forgotten) along with its manufacturing jobs; my next door neighbor worked there and one of my friends had a friend who did art/design work there).
I seem to remember the Lib Dems having a go at the Plaid one lap top per child election pledge as a give away and a waste of money...
That is of course different. Giving a laptop to each child is not the same as delivering lessons through school-owned and retained networked tablets.
I think getting on top of the 3Rs is far more important than getting a laptop to each child. Clearly even this is too much to expect given the PISA and Estyn reports.

I despair of the GREAT damage such poor results in the 3Rs has done to kids on council house estates/projects. Having been brought up on such estates I know that these kids, by and large, get but one shot at gaining a good grasp of the 3Rs.

As a council house kid originally born into a homeless family and exposed to chronic CO in a single room where I slept on the floor in front of one of those mobile upright oil heaters/burners; I learnt to recognize people by how they walk.

As a poor Welsh kid I never had access to any computer let alone a laptop, but that did not stop me becoming expert in parallel programming of massive parallel array supercomputers.


Because I was given a thorough grounding in the 3Rs in my Welsh schools, a foundation to build from. I can’t remember peoples’ names, but I got a good grounding in the 3Rs and that saved me.

One child: 3Rs. With that a child from a poor background has a permanent foundation from which to build their life and ultimately to provide a decent standard of living for their family.
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