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Opinion

Can a few tablets relieve governmental headaches?

3/21/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

I applaud the local governments that are utilizing the latest technology to become “paperless.” Undoubtedly, it will save trees. Unless, of course, if it makes it easier to pass legislation to clear woodland areas, in which case it would lead to the destruction of trees. But, all in all, I’ll say it will be good for the trees.

And it will be good for area Council members. Summit County Council received iPads earlier this month. Copley Township is looking into the Microsoft Surface Pro. Akron City Council is considering the purchase of mp3 players that will fill the ears of Council members with soothing whale sounds when things get a little heated.

Those who are receiving tablets should be warned. It’s not easy to stay on task when holding a machine that lets you check your email, surf the web or peruse Facebook with a brush of a finger. There’s even a Netflix app that allows you to stream TV shows, such as the popular British program “Downton Abbey.” If, during a meeting, a Council member suddenly begins referring to a colleague as “my lord” or “countess,” take a peek at their tablet. It’s a good bet they’re not looking at a PowerPoint presentation.

I’m not saying our elected officials will succumb to the tablet’s many distractions. Nor do I believe they would use their broad governmental powers to, say, aid themselves in one of those addicting online games. (“Then it is resolved that, as of this date and retroactively to the day when I lost to my cousin in ‘Words with Friends,’ the word ‘ZE’ is now a legitimate word.”) As dedicated public servants, they will remain focused on their sworn duties, not the latest viral “Harlem Shake” video.

With the tablet technology comes more opportunities for collaboration, since important documents can be shared between council members in a “cloud.” Can this cloud be spied on by drones, you ask? Likely not, and neither can it be breached by hackers, as long as the Council members use creative and secure passwords. (Note to Council members: The password should not be the name of one of your children, your spouse or anyone else who’s in line to take your Council position once you step down.)

Not all local communities are jumping on the technology bandwagon. There is a sizable expense involved, and politicians who are not tech savvy would need to overcome their apprehensions. But it will happen, and we should prepare for it. We should invest in our children, or, more specifically, we should invest in the children of the Council members receiving the tablets. Their consulting and training services are going to be in high demand.

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