By: Sandford Borins
The Internet is responsible for the deaths of time, distance, and deference. I wrote about how online opposition to the and sousveillance videocams illustrated the death of deference. This time, it's the death of time.
After last week's post about licence plate renewal went up, I e-mailed Ron McKerlie, Ontario's corporate CIO, about it at 7:56 a.m. He responded to me at 8:11 a.m. His message: Ontario's Web site “has the capacity to handle significant additional online volumes” and “you'll see better communication of what services can be obtained online over the next year.” I hope so.
Ontario's simple e-mail address system – firstname.surname@Ontario.ca – makes it easy for citizens to reach public servants. Yes, McKerlie knows me, but I'd like to think that he would respond as quickly to any thoughtful e-mail sent by any citizen.
Finally, I've always found that early-morning is the best time to send an e-mail to a public servant, when my message is at the top of the inbox and before the day's meetings begin.
Going a step further, what I'd really like to see is Service Ontario sending me an e-mail with my licence renewal form as a PDF. The problem is, with all the viruses that are circulating in cyberspace, would I believe the e-mail is legitimate rather than a virus or spam? I doubt I would believe it, which suggests that authentication is a two-way street with road-blocks in both directions.
A second version of the death of time concerns Saskatchewan MP Tom Lukiwski's homophobic video. I added up the views for all versions of the video that have been online for the last three weeks, and the count now totals 30,000.
The rate of growth of views of that video and of commentaries on it does not appear to be viral. Also, new instances of Lukiwski's homophobia have not emerged. The online numbers confirm my impression that this issue has faded from acute public consciousness and the Harper Government has succeeded in toughing it out.
Whether it has an impact on Lukiwski's fate in the next election is another matter.
The two stories show, in different ways, the impact of online technology on government and politics.
In the Ontario vehicle licence case, the blog and e-mail created a positive feedback loop between me and a senior Ontario public servant, with the results out there for all to see.
YouTube creates the potential for an issue to go viral through escalating view counts, comments, and related videos. What you see on YouTube and the number of times it is seen tells you if this happening, and in the Lukiwski case, it isn't.