Another dot in the blogosphere?

Smart nation, dumb instructions?

Posted on: May 1, 2017

My rant today began with the first world problem of setting up a GIRO link (automatic deduction) from my bank account to my son’s new ez-link (public transport) card.

Why establish this payment link? It is the smart thing to do: I do not have to remember when to top up the card’s cash value because the process is automated.

The instructions on how to do this are critical because a) they probably change over time (they did), and b) a user cannot be expected to remember what to do (it is a few years between needing to do this).

When I tried following the instructions at the ez-link website to set up a GIRO-linked travel card, I discovered that the instructions were outdated.

The main steps were to first get an authorisation number from an AXS machine and then look for a general ticketing machine to activate the travel card with the authorisation number.

The AXS instructions were not only inaccurate, the reader refused to read the card and reported that the card was faulty. I moved to another AXS machine and got the same message. The card worked just fine when I was at a customer service counter to deactivate the old card and activate the new one.

This begs the question of why everything — deactivation of old card, activation of new card, GIRO application — could not be performed at the customer service counter. It is as if some agency wanted people to walk from a counter to a machine to yet another machine so I got some exercise. The only thing I exercised was my patience.

The overall process is one main step too many. The authorities realised this and removed the AXS steps. However, the instructions persist online.

How are we to be a Smart Nation if we have dumb processes (the irrelevant instructions) that persist?

I do not blame the technology. I blame people.

The technology evolved to be more secure so that the AXS authorisation process was no longer a necessity. There is now one less step to play in this administrative scavenger hunt. But people in charge did not update the instructions and the links to them.

You could attribute this to laziness, oversight, or carelessness. Whatever the root cause, it would be stupid to push for a Smart Nation while retaining dumb habits.

The push is a sociotechnical system and efforts that forget the human element are doomed to fail. The failures do not have to be the headlining sort. They are the simple things that are supposed to make everyday life more convenient and seamless, like automating the payment of a travel card. If you cannot succeed with the little things, do not expect to do well with the big ones.

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