Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bureaucracy vs. Technology

Sometimes I think I grumble to much in my blog, since there are more posts in which I say bad things about stuff that annoys me, that there are about pure technology or CS related stuff. Unfortunately, this one would be no different. But I'll try to connect it to technology as much as possible.

Today I went to buy a used (second hand) car. The person from whom I'm buying the car is a real nice person, who wishes to sell the car due to relocation to the US. After going through the standard procedures of checking that the car is alright mechanically and electronically, we agreed to meet this morning at the post office, for conveyance ("ownership transfer"). As this is not my first vehicle, I'm familiar with this procedure, and thought everything would be just fine, and I'll be driving home with my new car. So I thought.

At the post office, they check whether there are any limitations regarding selling the property, such as whether it is confiscated or stolen. Since I already checked it beforehand, I knew there shouldn't be any problem. After they ran the check in their computer, they told us "sorry, you cannot convey this vehicle, we don't know why". We asked what the problem is, but they kept repeating that sentence, without supplying any reason. We both thought it was weird, so we headed to the closest ministry of transport office.

At the ministry of transport office there were HUGE lines, unlike any other office in Israel, including banks, post offices, etc. Since we had no choice, we stood there. That took about an hour. As our turn finally arrived, we thought we're gonna find out what is this all about, and close the deal. Unfortunately, we got a new answer "The police have ordered to remove the car from the road, we don't know why". Again, they looped that answer several times, without further explanations. 

At this point, I returned back home, with my old car (luckily it's still going), while the selling person had to drive to the traffic-police station (somewhere not very close to the rest of the offices), in order to check what is wrong with the car, and why the hell did the police ordered to remove his car from the road, without him ever getting any ticket or ever being arrested even for a regular check. After two hours he called me and said that it all was a big mistake. The police wrote the ticket with the wrong number and ordered to stop the wrong car (they actually arrested a truck!). So now he has a letter to the MOT that says they we can complete the transaction in their office (and not the post office, which means HUGE lines again).

I've been dealing with technology for quite a while, and I was responsible for research and modeling of SOA (service oriented architecture) and connectivity between different systems. This made me think about several problems that arose from bureaucracy and could be easily solved with technology:
  • If there's already a network between the police to the MOT, and between the MOT to the post office, why can't they pass a simple string saying what's the problem with the car? That would have saved us at least an hour.
  • Why can't the lines in the MOT be better organized, like in modern banks, medical centers and post offices?
  • If there is connectivity as described above, why can't the police update the record about the car, so we could go back to the post office? Why would we need a letter if we have
  • Why do they still trust the hand writing of police officers and volunteers, instead of equipping them with cameras, and using OCR software (the same which is being used for toll roads, such as road 6)? That could have saved us the entire day, and the day after.
If I owned a company, at which SOA and such other products were the line of business, I'd volunteer to implement these products at the MOT/police/post-office, so that every citizen could see it in action (everyone visits these places). I think it'll bring me a lot of customers, perhaps world-wide. As for the typo in the car number, this is plain stupidity: A tiny little check would have shown this number doesn't belong to a truck. Simple input validation that every programmer could've implemented.

Edit: Since everyone is talking about Google's chrome (the new browser), and since this is a technology blog, I can't stop myself from writing something about it. This post was written using chrome, and I must say it was quite fluent, although not that much of a difference from Firefox. I'll be using it for some more time, and try to stress it out.
Tip: If you close a tab by accident, simply click the (+) sign at the tab bar (is this how it is called?), and the newly opened page (assuming it's the home page built into the browser) would suggest you to open the recently closed tab.

1 comment:

  1. Getting a new car? Cool! (I'm trying to look at the bright side here...)