Putting efficiency before privacy
the recent Kapi-Mana News survey of councillors’ performances (didn’t we see him offer the same reasons in response to a previous survey)?
To all three I ask: which of you will own up to the fact that the faulty business case for the Bernie Wood Turf was clearly spelt out to the mayor and councillors before they approved the deal?
They nevertheless still proceeded to spend more than $1 million of public money – with more promised – despite all the evidence that council officers had done a poor job evaluating the proposition.
It’s about time Porirua was not represented by people who think buying property is the only game in town.
SHOPS CLOSING IN MEGACENTRE
It is sad to learn that the Postie shop in the MegaCentre is to close soon.
This shop has served our city so well in many ways – prices, shop set-up and friendly staff, to mention some. Also Dick Smith is also closing. Is this a start in the MegaCentre of what has occurred in the CBD?
There we have lost some more shops, and there is an empty Post Office site, bought by our city council in 2015.
What plans have the council got for this building – it has cost us ratepayers a lot of money.
The original McDonald’s shop has been vacant for many years and others have been left vacant for long periods, but still our next projected rates rise is to be more than 5 per cent.
Next year, are we also to be without an information centre too?
Many visitors and locals use this outlet for information about services.
It was well operated by friendly staff and will be a sad loss for our city.
Maybe this situation arises from our council trying to save money on one hand while spending at will with the other.
This is now a very sad looking city.
There is not too much to be proud of for those of us who live, work and shop here, let alone for those who are visiting.
If the 5 per cent rates rise was used to show some of the positive things happening in Porirua, then we would once again be proud of our achievements, instead of going to other, better places to shop.
The only thing we can do is live in hope for the future of our onceproud city.
Before it was co-opted by politicians, ‘‘efficiency’’ used to be an innocent little word.
At its best, it conjured up images of health and economy, of things whirring happily in place as men and women in suits strode confidently towards their destiny.
In that guise, ‘‘efficiency’’ is the enemy of waste, the friend of purpose. At its worst, though, ‘‘efficiency’’ has a ruthless quality, and is easily irritated by human frailty.
In the hands of politicians, ‘‘efficiency’’ and its evil henchman, ‘‘affordability’’, have become the Aryan Twins of fiscal austerity. Means have become ends, and what began as a quest for the wise use of resources appears to have totally jumped the shark.
So it seemed last week, as Deputy Prime Minister Bill English unveiled the Government’s plans to integrate the data held by 10 major government agencies – including Health, Education, Social Development, Justice and Inland Revenue – so that more information could be readily accessed about people who happen, for whatever reason, to cross the Government’s radar.
Officials would even be able to access this new ‘‘data highway’’ from their smartphones before making decisions.
The efficiency gains, English intimated, would be considerable.
No-one, of course, wants to stand in the way of progress. Yet the prospect of public servants – many of them now on short-term contracts where they move constantly between the public and private sectors – being able to flick on their cellphones and access the most private information about virtually anyone (from their incomes to the status of their intimate relationships) is not a vision to be embraced without qualms.
English seemed to grasp that there could be privacy implications, before briskly brushing them aside.
‘‘We’re using the same tools that every other business in the world is using to understand much more about our customers,’’ he claimed.
Why, just as Facebook uses smart algorithms to place advertising, so too could big data better inform the decisions made on social policy.
‘‘We’re not looking at reducing privacy or confidentiality,’’ English added. ‘‘We’re looking at sharing it.’’
To which his critics would reply, when privacy gets ‘‘shared’’, surely it isn’t quite so private any more?
The supporting Cabinet papers also paint the new world of information integration in utopian fashion: ‘‘The increased availability of government-held information and data analytics and predictive modelling…[has] the potential to…help solve complex problems and generate innovative ideas.’’
Evidently, this will happen across ‘‘multiple agencies and their partners’’ at the same time as ‘‘partnerships with the private sector are increasingly being used to drive innovation and encourage greater risk taking’’.
Any privacy implications here? Not according to the authors.
‘‘This paper has no human rights issues,’’ they flatly claim. So far, this system of mass-data surveillance is being implemented without any public discussion of the safeguards required to prevent hacking, improper data sharing or on-selling, the transfer of inaccurate information, or the level of access that ordinary citizens should have to the data being held on them. Only a decade ago, Big Brother was invoked when the Government merely wanted to regulate the size of showerheads to conserve energy. Since then, we’ve become so much more efficient.