"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."We seem to have largely reached this point in society. The majority of people do not understand how an internal combustion engine works, let alone a microchip or mobile phone.
Certainly we've done an excellent job of educating people about the principles and concepts - most people can explain that an engine burns petrol, or that a microchip is made up of electrical circuits, but could they repair or build one?
To live in modern society there's no deeper understanding required - simply turn the key or push the button and the technological 'thing' just works.
On this basis the people who create and repair technology become the modern wizards and sorcerers, who use indecipherable words, strange rituals and bad smelling components to perform their secret rites.
Why is this relevant to egovernment? Because politicians and public servants are humans too - subject to the same emotions, biases and psychological impulses.
Often in government - as in the private sector - technology is seen as a thing apart, managed by strange people who cluster in back rooms, speaking in tongues. These people, commonly referred to as IT, are regarded by others with a mixture of reverence, awe and fear.
Due to this whenever technology is used to facilitate an activity or task, often the focus, and the budget, is committed to buying or building the computers, software and systems necessary for delivery - and the other aspects, the communication, training and usability, is neglected.
I have watched this happen in organisations on a regular basis for many years. All the funds go into buying the facilitating tools, with little left over for the people.
In my view this is a fundamental misunderstanding of technology and is a large part of the reason why so many IT-focused projects fail to deliver the benefits predicted - or fail to deliver at all.
I've always believed the people are more important than the tools. Get the people parts right and even if the technology isn't 100% you will get a good outcome.
This is particularly significant in egovernment where systems are built to help engage people, inform them, communicate with them and interact with them.
To d this successfully organisations need to build the systems to work for the people, rather than build the systems and then try to change peoples' behaviour to match.
This is simply another way of saying go where the people are, which is a recommendation as applicable to marketers and communicators as it is for IT teams.
These principles apply even more strongly for online social media - which is all about facilitating interactions between people, the technological interface is merely the barrier in-between.
This could be why so many organisations have resisted social media - because they don't see the community interactions as the most important aspect of these projects - they focus on the technology they should use, to the expense of the technology which their staff would use.
So why are so many organisation so bad at this?
Because they think it's about the technology and not the people.
And in my opinion they could not be more wrong.
What do you think?