Never vote for an incompetent candidate again

In every election, we choose who we want in Parliament based on the list of people running for office. Each party presents their candidates but do the parties vet them first? And what should they filter for? This article explains why parties should vote for tech-savvy candidates.

Background

We all vote for the candidates on the ballot paper. Our choice is limited to those who run for office, and then only for those contesting our district. How many times have you wanted to vote for a specific party but didn’t like the candidates you were faced with?

I argue that parties should vet the people before accepting them as candidates. I’m sure parties vet for scandals, and I hope they vet for illegal behaviour. Do they check to see if these candidates are competent to be representatives of the people? After all any candidate, if elected, could end up being a Minister of the Republic. Shouldn’t we make sure that people have skills concomitant with such a lofty role?

Role of technology

I could make a case for many skills which a potential minister should have like empathy, people skills and oratory. There are excellent reasons to argue for each of these. I’m going to focus on one: technological aptitude.

Those of you who know me are wondering if I’m going to argue ministers should all be IT graduates.

I’m not; that would be ridiculous.

Ministers should be tech savvy to understand how things can change. Tell me the following points aren’t things ministers should be aware of:

  1. AI and its use in diagnosing cancers, identifying case law or hunting tax avoiders.
  2. Open-source software for parking fines or traffic monitoring.
  3. Encrypted communications with allies and international bodies
  4. Use of Internet-of-things in transport and communications
  5. Use of satellite navigation to automate asset management or increase agricultural yields.

Effect of technology-savvy ministers

I’m not asking for ministers to be AI experts or advanced cryptologists. But I am asking for ministers to be more aware of these technologies and their impact than ever before.

Some of you think this is what ministerial advisers are for. You would prefer to have advisors who are experts who would give a minister this advice. I don’t think a special adviser negates my request.

Ministers need to know their advisers aren’t feeding them a line. It is also important for a minister to know what questions to ask. If ministers aren’t aware of the agricultural benefits of satellite navigation will they know they need a sat-nav adviser?

Conclusion

Twenty years ago a minister wouldn’t have needed to know more than how to use a (primitive) computer. Today technology is all around us but that doesn’t mean we’re all experts in technology. It will be easy to mislead ministers unless they understand these topics.

The Czech central government recently showed the importance of this. It had a CZK 400 million project (about EUR 16 million) to introduce an online system of motorway permits. This is a huge amount of money for a system that sells permits – and tracks their use – online. Tomáš Vondráček, a local entrepreneur, pointed out this could be done for free over a single weekend. The Prime Minister cancelled the contract and fired the transport minister. Mr Vondráček launched a hackathon on a Friday at 6pm. The system was ready by Monday morning – for free.

What would have happened if the Minister for transport was tech savvy?

Shouldn’t all ministers be able to see bullshit when it’s in front of them?

References

  1. Czech IT specialists organize “hackathon” to give government online motorway vignette sales system for free; Daniela Lazarová; Radio.CZ; 2020-01-21

All references were valid and correct when this article was published. Changes to referenced websites or web pages may render some references invalid. If this is the case, please leave a comment below.


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