Relay #70, Panel F

don't just know technology, understand it

Saturday, July 28, 2007

What's so bad about RealID?

There's no cynicism to the question. I'm genuinely interested in an answer. Let me first state my interest in the topic.
I am a part of the technical committee charged by the Jamaican Cabinet to investigate the technologies, processes and legislative requirements needed for the establishment of a single ID/Registration/e-Government Authentication system for the Government of Jamaica. A single number that identifies you to all government (and perhaps later on, private) entities; in essence, Jamaica's equivalent to RealID.

During the months of work that the team has put in and notwithstanding all the opinions and objections raised, I am still very much of the mind that the benefits of a single government ID far outweigh the perceived and/or probable negatives. On the government's side this will greatly increase the effectiveness of mandatory processes such as tax collection, border control and the proper monitoring of the health care and educational landscape. On the citizen's size this will greatly improve the manner in which an individual can interact with government services. A single ID will allow eGovernment systems to more effectively communicate, thus eliminating tedious manual processes and increasing the efficiency of government-citizen transactions.

Needless to say that my being a part of the committee responsible for charting this system has no doubt instilled in me a certain level of bias, and as such I would not want to assume that the objections I have heard and yet to hear are without merit. For the most all the objections are centered around the _potential_ of abuse of such a system, as opposed to inherent issues that will arise upon it's implementation. In my opinion that's not enough to derail any such initiative. I have done research into similar systems of other jurisdictions and the concerns seem to be the same: A National ID is the first step towards a big brother/police state.
I could make the point that those establishments may not be such a bad thing, but that would certainly set off a firestorm the likes of which I'm not willing to debate at the moment. I am of the mind however, that if the establishment of a police state is thought to have merit, it will happen, with or without a national ID. In fact, most countries already have the mechanisms for monitoring their citizens in granular detail. A national ID would certainly make it easier, but it is in no way a required component.

So the moot on the table is still the negative connotations of a national ID system. Why is everyone up in arms? I'm keen on making informed decisions and need logical, unemotional opinions. How and/or why is such a system flawed? Is there a real deal breaker or is all the resistance based solely on fear? What about jurisdictions (Singapore, South Africa) that have successfully implemented similar systems?

It will be interesting to see how the issue plays out in the US, especially if there is a change in the executive branch in 2008. Perhaps the benefits are only visible if you are on a particular side of the fence.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Free for all

As of this writing, you can make free calls around the world* using ViaTalk Free. This service will connect your instrument (landline or cellphone) to the person you're calling, as opposed to the conventional manner of having you shout over a PC microphone. I have no information on how long this promotion will be running, so make use of it while you can. I myself haven't been able to talk to anyone outside of the quick test I ran with a co-worker as the only person I can think of calling is my mother is Pennsylvania, but I keep getting voicemail.

For persons with smartphones and/or WAP/GPRS, you can visit the site and initiate calls using the very same instrument as opposed to a regular PC. It's pretty impressive on my Blackberry.

This is a nice throwback to the heydays of Net2Phone and other online telephony companies. Give your cellphone bill a well needed hiatus and be sure to say thanks to the nice folks at ViaTalk.

(*I haven't verified this, I'm just saying is all.)

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

On the History of Linux

Of interest:

You'll have to save and/or view the image in full to get the big picture.

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