Software as a branch of political science.

I often find I bump into technical people who are part of a belief system called Technological Determinism. It is marked by the belief "that the development of technology itself follows a path largely beyond cultural or political influence, and that technology in turn has 'effects' on societies that are inherent, rather than socially conditioned".

I believe that the opposite is true. While our discovery of natural sciences may be partially independent of social science influences such as politics and law, that technology is the application of natural sciences. How we apply what we learn is itself a social science, making technology inherently a mixture of natural and social sciences.

Software being a set of rules that govern technologies such as computers makes this discipline far closer to a social science than being a technology itself. To understand the influence of software on our lives, and how we can influence software, requires that we look at it as if it were a type of politics.

When technical people forget this, they get disappointed or worse in the outcomes of decisions. Recently the Massachusetts CIO resigned Over the process around the decision to move towards the transparent, accountable and vendor neutral OpenDocument file format. Peter Quinn's former boss Eric Kriss said that, "Peter is an IT professional who is not accustomed to the rough-and-tumble world of politics,". Microsoft had created Astro-turf activism falsely claiming that a move to this vendor neutral format would cause problems for the disabled, but included a "Boston Globe article that seemed to imply some sort of improper influence related to his conference travel."

This is not a decision about a technology, but a decision about whether governments will require transparency and accountability in the (software) rules used to govern key areas of how governments operate. Peter Quinn made a decision that was clearly in the best interests of the citizens of Massachusetts, but was not ready for the political corruption from powerful special interest lobbies such as Microsoft.

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Transparency and Accountability in Governments

Many Governments are talking about transparency; but are worried abut the pandora's box it may open. "It is called the fear of the unknown!"

Though it is a fashion to talk in public of e-Governance and how transparent their Govt is, the leaders are worried that transparency may become a Frankenstien monster, that would ultimately kill them.

In a democracy, the political masters who govern the country or state do not want total transparency; they don't mind partial transparency - that which is convenient to them, for public viewing. The rest must be in total secrecy!!

A small attempt has been made to introduce transparency and accountability in Government organizations in india. It has met with some support and a lot of opposition.

But it is now being acknowldeged atleast in private, that a paper-less communication and work-flow solution in any governmnet organization, can empower employees, improve office productivity, minimize delays, reduce corruption, create a level playing field, flatten gender divide, alleviate poverty and help achieve UN MDGs.

Kris Dev (Krishnan), Co-Founder,
Transparency & Accountability Network
krisdev@gmail.com
http://TrAcNet.blogspot.com
http://ll2b.blogspot.com