02 Apr Government stimulus money shouldn't revive Industrial Age
CHICAGO – What enduring projects are we spending the stimulus money on and what skill sets are we trying to save?
Every state and local legislature should be asking those questions as they look at spending money coming in from the federal government. Most people are looking at how to spend money on various projects that will put people back to work. Unfortunately, many are taking a 1950s (if not a 1930s) approach about which projects should be created to employ people.
While we have to understand that part of the infrastructure is made up of roads, bridges and bricks and mortar, there is now a virtual infrastructure made up of software, hardware and applications.
Kill Two Birds With One Software Application
We are past the Industrial Age, past the Information Age and into the Internet Age. Let’s not emphasize reinvesting in the past when there is so much to do in the future. There aren’t enough lawmakers in legislatures who understand that jobs and skill sets have advanced from picks and shovels to PCs and wireless communications as the bread-and-butter jobs for many Americans.
Instead, there is a bureaucratic notion that – if we just create a lot of construction jobs – that action will somehow bring underemployed people who have lost high-paying financial and IT jobs back into some type of prosperity and consumer spending spree. These underemployed people (who are already highly skilled, degreed and certified) worked in different segments of the financial and information industry.
They don’t need retraining. They need real opportunities to apply what they already know. What about creating some new jobs to streamline obsolete government applications? Take antiquated manual applications that are labor-intensive tasks and automate them. This would be hitting two birds with one stone. People could be working on new systems and government services would be automated.
Every day there are more examples of the vortex of declining mediocrity. This shows the emphasis on saving old-skilled jobs instead of creating and maintaining cutting-edge careers. We should be looking at employing software and IT people to take a systems approach to government and cut down antiquated, manual processes.
Records management, court documents and other process-intensive applications would be perfect candidates for a government back-to-work project. Pick several areas that are lagging back into the 1950s “paper era” and create automated approaches to them. The immediate benefit would be to employ many IT people
More important, though, is the ongoing residual value would be to cut down the cost of government and cut out the waste that goes on in everyday scenarios. The problem is that there are more legislators and administrators who understand simple brick-and-mortar “build something” projects as compared to comprehending software, systems integration and the digital economy.
“Let’s build a road and employ some people” is a lot easier than saying this: “Let’s review the current system processes and create a more cost-effective and automated approach for this antiquated government application.”
Shovel Ready vs. Fiber Ready
If we are to look at road construction, let’s look at adding fiber optics into every road-building project. Let’s look at adding a law that requires every highway construction project to also undertake the expansion of a state-of-the-art network.
The incremental cost of adding fiber to the roadbed while it’s being built is negligible compared to going back, ripping up the street and adding it later. This seems to be the common-sense approach. Unfortunately, we have too many people who fail to comprehend this in many decision-making roles who work in highway departments across most states.
At the same time, incumbent phone companies try to stifle any new approaches so they can squeeze another couple years of profits out of a copper-based infrastructure without having to compete with innovation.
Just as some would point out that GM has failed in competing in the automobile markets, many incumbent phone companies have stumbled around instead of building a second-to-none network infrastructure in the last 20 years.
In a recent interview discussing municipal stimulus packages on Etopia News, you can see a clear side-by-side comparison of the different speed of various DSL lines. This demonstrates the choppiness of picture continuity when a slower speed is used. Having higher speeds for video-based conferences over the Internet would greatly advance communications if we had true broadband connectivity on a universal basis.
Consolidate Assets, Approaches
The idea of consolidating assets across different government agencies seemed to hit a chord last week. Many areas can utilize a shared approach and we would get more for our money by consolidating these assets: libraries, public safety facilities and water-treatment plants.
“We need to pour more money into this endeavor.” How many years have we heard that for education and other government agencies? How many times have referenda been passed without seeing any significant improvements? A different direction needs to be charted and pursued.
Carlinism: We are past the Industrial Age, past the Information Age and into the Internet Age. Let’s not reinvest in the past when there is so much to do in the future.
Recent columns by James Carlini
- James Carlini: Government spending? Consolidate assets first
- James Carlini: The Chevrolet Volt: A product of the massive automobile bailout?
- James Carlini: Chicago Tea Party: CNBC commentator Rick Santelli defends the common man
- James Carlini: Media bias: Where do you really get the credible news today?
- James Carlini: Infrastructure stimulus packages, part two: Top 10 best practices
- James Carlini: Infrastructure stimulus packages: Best practices, Part I
James Carlini will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming Broadband Properties SUMMIT ’09 in Dallas, April 27th -29th discussing “Intelligent Infrastructure”.
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.