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PIA Press Release
2010/02/22

Commentary: The known and unknown in automation

By Bong Pedalino

Maasin City (22 February) -- It is unfortunate, indeed, that private telecommunications giants harbored fears of being attacked or terrorized in providing the central technology backbone for the upcoming automated polls.

We just hope they had changed their minds, and reconsidered their positions, to focus on what needs to be done right at their nerve center, rather than plan an alternate site which would be developed, it appears, from scratch.

These firms should realize that it is a question of either playing an active part in this history-in-the-making elections, or miss this rare chance, and being frowned as downright timid, frightened by a specter of threats, real or imagined.

The telecom giants must consider the former, if only to ensure success of the computerized elections this May 10, and in the process brush up their image as a reliable provider of competitive, cutting-edge technical knowhow.

***

And the fear of attacks? As they say, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. The most common solution over this is to beef up security by involving the authorities, the Police, the Army, the intelligence groups, to be in full alert status.

There should be a 24/7 uniformed guards, a sizeable A-1 squad, in all the communications and transmission facilities that are prone to be sabotaged, or at election-related sites of these outfits that are possible targets of bombing frenzy.

Then, if this may not sound over-acting enough, the government may declare a no-fly zone within one kilometer radius of air space around these stations, and for land-based vehicles, entry should be prohibited also within one kilometer radius, except for those duly authorized, accredited, or properly identified persons.

***

From the very start, it is understood that embarking on poll automation, or any dramatic project for that matter, brings with it prospects of known and unknown variables, at times the unknown more intimidating than the known factors.

But with our motive at hand, which is to eliminate the long and tedious canvassing and the opportunities for fraud, the unknown, even how daunting, must not discourage us; rather it should propel us to move ahead.

Discoveries and inventions, achievements, progress, growth and the overall advancement of humankind hinged more on conquering the unknown, then innovate, improve on what is already known.

***

And automation being computer and technology-based, the perennial fear among anxious sectors and individuals is on programming, stressing that as a tool the machine will simply accept what is dished on it, leading to electronically-driven lapses, whether deliberate or not.

Fortunately, this is already a known factor, and we must rely on the expertise of those concerned that this one is already addressed, that what will be the result should be a reflection of the true will of the electorate, delivered in a fast mode.

Are the experts expert enough? We do believe so. How about the teachers, the general voting public -- they are not familiar on how this animal called Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) would work they have not even seen one.

This will come in due time very, very soon. Presently, suffice it to say that both the known and the unknown phases of automation should inspire us to productive action, ignite our passion to get things done with speed and accuracy, and lead us to measured excitement.

For automation, despite its professed drudgery and possible broken dreams, is an idea whose time has come.

***

LOCAL FRONT: Teachers in Maasin City and Southern Leyte province will be oriented on the PCOS by March, or next month, save for days reserved for national achievement tests. So cramming and burning the midnight oil will be the lot of these mentors in relation with their inter-facing with the machines. Our hope here is that the machines themselves are user-friendly and able to operate on simple instructions given to teachers on short notice. Another hope is that the educators themselves are not completely alien to operating computers in this highly computer-obsessed world, so a few hours of hands-on session may do.

ODDLY YOURS: Ash Wednesdays are so movable the date may be February 4 at the earliest, or March 10 at the other extreme. But there was never an Ash Wednesday on a leap day year, that is, February 29 -- not until February 29, 2096 for the very first time this shall happen. (PIA-Southern Leyte) [top]

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