John McCain, the senior Arizona Senator, revealed in March he doesn’t use email. Senator Ted Stevens, of Alaska, once referred to the internet as a “series of tubes”. Mitt Romney, regarded as one of the brighter Senators, was “amazed” by touch screen technology during a 2012 campaign stop.
And then there’s Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, a man who makes monumentally important decisions about all aspects of society, crime, business, politics and daily life in America.
In response to a case that involved social media, Roberts admitted “I don’t think any of us have a Facebook page, or tweet – whatever that is”.
Time and again we see legislators struggling to understand the subject they are passionately debating, yet lots of politicians talk about the importance of wielding technology.
Our elected officials and the people who put them in office should take note of Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, who puts his money where his mouth is.
Yesterday he revealed he’s upset that he doesn’t have time to code stuff anymore.
The PM did so in a speech outlining the city-state’s many and enviable innovations. While touting the achievments he highlighted that the minister in charge of Singapore’s Smart Nation Programme Office, Vivian Balakrishnan, “… used to be an eye surgeon but since he does not get to operate on eyes nowadays, he dabbles in building simple robots, assembling watches, wireless devices and programming apps.” Clearly more technologically advanced than virtually all our elected officials.
Prime minister Loong said he envies Balakrishnan having time to code. “The last programme I wrote was a Sudoku solver in C++ several years ago, so I’m out of date.” he remarked.
But Loong already sees his next personal skills upgrade: one of his two MIT-educated kids recently gave him a book on the Haskell programming language. “One day that will be my retirement reading.” he said.
We should look at Loong and the elected officials of Singapore to see what it takes to be a truly technology-driven economy. While we have Silicon Valley a plan to turn all of America into a truly progressive, modern economy will take leaders that understand both the technology and the issues. It seems our current class of representatives could use a little personal skills upgrading themselves.