23 February 2006

Soldier Report: FUBAR

Some of you may already know Aníbal Freytes, The Information Soldier. He read yesterday's Jenius post and commented. Here's what he wrote:

You know I worked right there where they hold all of Puerto Rico's eGovernment effort for more than a year. At any time I could have told any of the guys working there to set up my eGoverment account. I mean, I could actually bypass the morass of bureaucratic processes that you would have to go through in order to get an account (like having to go in person to your local Treasury department office and present IDs and sign stuff up). I can actually still call some of those people and get my account up and running in two minutes.

But I don't. I won't!

Three things:

1. The eGovernment portal does not work well with my browser (you know, Firefox).

2. I don't trust the (technical/digital) security there. Not that the people there aren't capable. But they are reactive. Ask (I did!--part of the job) for a complete listing of hardware, software, services and data and you will get an incomplete answer, if not an outright blank stare from most.

3. I don't trust the government with my information. Period.

Even if the above didn't apply there isn't (to my knowledge) any established means to settle damages in the event of an information leak. And I'm not talking money, but accountability, responsibility.


1) There is no chain of command or clear authority/responsibility structure concerning citizens' data in the current Puerto Rican e-government effort.

2) It doesn't work with Firefox. Or Opera. (The Jenius uses Opera since 1996.) The whole shebang runs on Windows. Excuse Me, My mistake: the whole shebang lurches on Windows.

3) There is no clear-cut idea of who has what, running what, doing what, within the e-government system. That has the soothing effect of a foghorn blast, in your ear, while in REM sleep.

4) Yesterday's forum was more cult than business, more bribery than marketing and more disgusting than illuminating. Microsoft essentially runs the entire e-government process. It has sole power over what should be an increasingly-vital government infrastructure. Power corrupts. Enough said.

Is Aníbal wrong? Not from the answers government employees gave Me yesterday. To dismiss the points listed above would require Us to think that the "drones"--the people at the technology/citizen interface level--are kept in the dark while the "upper levels"--too blind to even consider how to overcome the technology gap so prevalent in Our society--hide information or plan a strategy too deep for mere mortals to understand.

Right. And bacon has anti-gravity powers.

The only possible conclusion is that The Information Soldier, reporting from four years on the front lines, is absolutely right: the local e-government effort is a pathetic blend of Swiss and limburger cheeses, gaping and smelly.

In military parlance, a soldier would call this FUBAR: Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition. (Yes, "Fouled" is a euphemism. Feel free to edit.) Or even SNAFU: Situation Normal: All Fouled Up. (Ditto on the editing.) To dismiss the acronyms, We have to take hold of this process in one of two ways:

1) Yoke The Fools to a real future, based on open standards, beholden to no one single entity; open standards that protect Our information and the processes it may be used for, or

2) Yank control from the Frankenstein wannabes and do the work Ourselves.

Or We can do what We've been doing up to now which is letting The Fools play with technology without supervision, the literal horror of retarded monkeys playing with loaded guns. The Soldier knows it, The Jenius knows it, now you do, too.

It's time to act.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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