A HUB URGENTLY NEEDED
October 15, 2020
The intention, as expressed by Government to establish E-Government is laudable. However, when we add to this the necessary additional restrictions imposed by the pandemic, it can become chaotic and stressful to many, depending on the degree of each one’s versatility and adaptability to drastically changing demands at short notice.
The new environment, or rather, the new reality, can seem strange and foreign to some if we are expected to adapt to it from one day to the next - even unsurmountable.
There is no doubt that E-Government should be the modern way to accessing Government services, always provided one is conversant with modern technology, when this technology becomes our natural ally and not a hindrance.
The aim is to cut bureaucracy to a minimum and save the time and effort that we can devote to other concerns. However, with the new way of doing things we suddenly introduce a new reality, virtual new oceans we need to learn how to navigate. To the older generation, this is a new alien world. A new reality we are all expected to adapt to with no more ado, solely aided by a few ads on TV and the press. We are forthwith set adrift.
Those conversant with it, the younger generation having being brought up with the use of computer technology, smart phones etc, will clearly find themselves in their own element.
Nevertheless, there are other intermediate generations between the aforementioned young generation and the elderly that will find it initially slightly more difficult to adapt to the new order of things. Those who are lucky enough to be commanding enterprises will likely depend on more youthful elements within the organisations to help the firm navigate through the new exigencies. Not everyone within this so-called intermediate generation will be lucky enough to have people at their beck and call to act on their behalf or guide them.
The older one gets, one’s adaptability to the new-fangled technology and requirements becomes even more difficult. It soon becomes a morass, impossible to understand, much less navigate.
To septuagenarians and octogenarians used, as they invariably are, to doing things in the traditional way, the new requirements can be stressful. This is a big swathe of our voting public.
Where to turn to when soliciting a new passport or identity card, exchanging a driving license, or even attempting to get a new prescription can, at best, be confusing. Being told to download a form from the internet can be daunting if you have never used a computer, compounded by being asked that, once the form is completed, it should be handed in to the post office, a venue usually associated with posting letters or parcels, this just increases the confusion or, even worse, to be told to return it via Email.
Coupled with the above, making a phone call to certain Government departments can be daunting too, given the new fad of having answer machines that subject the caller to uncalled for music and then told that if you want “A” then dial Extension 1 If “B” then Extension 2 etc. At the end one forgets what 1 or 2 or 3 is supposed to stand for.
Ringing the police or a Government department can be stressful too for the elderly. If one rings the police one has to know exactly what crime one needs to report if any, in order to be able to dial the appropriate extension. One is almost asked to specify the minutiae of the crime. If what you want to say to the police does not fit in any of the categories specified by the answer machine, the old codger is simply left in a quandary, not knowing where to turn to next. All the caller may have wanted is an assurance or advice from a body we are told to trust.
AquaGib though is a different kettle of fish altogether. Even if you have a burst pipe inside your home that may be causing flooding, and are raring to tell someone of your emergency, the answer machine insists in giving out a full promotion spiel of very long minutes. A promotion spiel you may have heard one hundred times before but something you need to put up with if you want to speak to someone in AquaGib. The recording is something you may not have time to listen to, especially if what you want to report is an emergency and then be told, after the unrequested music you are forced to listen to, that you are either first or second in line. If one makes a mistake when dialling the extension, eventually the person that answers will give us either another telephone number to ring or a different extension, and one starts the process anew together with the promotion speech and music.
For the benefit of those who are unable to adapt to sudden changes, the new system should be gradually interwoven with the old, with counters and tills still being available to the over sixty fives only. That should be combined with a hub of people who would cost the government very little since it could use very able community care officers able to help out by either guiding people in the process of accessing what is required on line, or actually providing the service required by spending a few minutes with the old people and going through the process themselves while explaining what is being done, if at all possible. Quite apart from accessing or changing documentation, accessing health services is essential for older people. Being able to get an appointment with a doctor, without having to go through stress, is vital - being able to get repeat subscriptions is too.
At A&E, where waiting time can sometimes run into hours, the elderly should be given the same priority as children.
Generally speaking, there should be an established hub for the elderly provided at very little expense by Government by the use of knowledgeable people who can take the elderly on hand and provide them with the essential Government service, doing away with the stress that exists nowadays.
The way things are at present, the elderly do not know where to turn to. Exchanging an ID card or a passport can be quite daunting to them.
The ideal situation is for Government to keep some counters open for the use of the over sixty fives and then start integrating both systems.