Technology has its place but the cultural and environmental factors can be limiting

Dear Editor,  

Reference is made to the letter titled, `What burning fire?’ from Mr Keith Bernard (SN July 29).  I laud Mr Bernard for his introduction of a new dimension and different thinking into the diaspora discussion.  His emphasis on the hitherto muted, if not ignored, technology component has to be recognized for what it can contribute.  Having said so, I now advance to add a word or two into the mix that some might find surprising, if not alarming.

Long distance could be the way to go, it should be; and especially given the technology oriented world of today.  Now I regret to share that, here in Guyana, this might only just travel a certain distance, and then no more.  The reality could be frustrating, if not tiring and dispiriting for energetic and keenly interested members of the diaspora.  But it is the way.

Members of that same diaspora have two things they wish to deliver to the homeland: time and skills; or investment funds for hopefully viable projects.  In terms of the former (time and skills) that could work via telecommuting and electronic communication, which could save lots of money, and still deliver.  Problems arise when the advanced stages of foreign technology are not quite matched or compatible with what is on the local scene.  I see that as not insurmountable and something which can be worked through with patience and effort, and cooperation and understanding.  But there is a worse problem, which I keep discovering to my chagrin and is smack dab in the middle of the local technology world.

It is that in this small society, many people are related to each other in some way and know each other.  And in this society, people talk.  Stated differently, the integrity of significant local technology processes and people can be seriously questioned.  I have had cause to; and I continue to do so.  This is a problem with telltale footprints covering from routine transactions to confidential ones.  That old saying about all politics is local could be extended accurately to state that all business is local, all developments are local, and all transactions are local, as in circulated where such should not be, or in the open, given time.  Still further, a lot of the mentalities and traditions widely enshrined here would be considered anachronisms in the high-intensity, high-speed, high-performance world of those with cutting edge technology orientations.  This is better elaborated upon through focusing now on that likely second diaspora interest, which is investing in a rewarding local project.

To invest here, to do business here involves more than moving minds.  It means moving time, people, processes, and customs.  Technology and telecommuting may start the process from afar, but alas! What follows thereafter can be mind-bending and anxiety inducing.  There are issues of speed, procedures, and (once again) trust.  To be able to attach cellphone capabilities to a landline requires a physical visit to the provider’s place of business, a waiting line, and arrangements finalized with cheque in hand.  It is the same for international calling features to be added.  The routine of opening a bank account calls for a face-to-face arm’s length exercise that occupy the good part of a morning.  Anti-money laundering compliance requirements have only exacerbated an already tortuous situation.  Try establishing a business….

Technology might as well not exist in these circumstances.  As in the courts, there is great credibility in producing the body.  This is a world populated by the antiquities of rubber stamps, revenue stamps, and more than a few scamps.  It is lovely to do things from the outside, but those who dare to leave property and business interests in the hands of locals, have had many an occasion to regret such costly adventurism.  This happens all too frequently, and all the technology in the world is rendered insufficient in the face of the human element.  Leave once trusted partners to conduct business on one’s behalf and in time there is no accounting, no discussion, and no business.  Credibility and trust evaporate; so, too, that burning desire and the confidence of those who have the burn marks to show.  That dirty word is spread.

I recognize the brave new world of technology.  I like it and use it despite the apprehensions of a Stone Age citizen.  I am familiar also with what can work and offers traction in this society.  Technology has its place, but the cultural and environmental limitations can be limiting, if not overwhelming.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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