DAP polls: If not the butler, you can always blame software

  • DAP blames polls fiasco on computer error
  • If so, why did a human have to quit?

DAP polls: If not the butler, you can always blame softwareIF for nothing else, many of my former colleagues at Microsoft Malaysia say they will never forget me for how I managed to transform the highly-polished and professional office environment there into a typical newsroom in my two or so years at the company.
 
All would be peaceful and quiet when a string of Chinese curses would suddenly erupt, and my office-mates would nod and snigger at one another, saying, “Ah, Asohan is having another PowerPoint moment.”
 
Hi. My name is Asohan. I am PowerPoint-challenged.
 
Yes, I admit it is a powerful and very useful piece of software which millions and millions of people all over the world use with no more thought than they would Word. I am just not one of them.
 
I hated preparing presentations, and I hated doing them on PowerPoint, even though through my red haze of rage, I could see how useful a tool it was. I would curse it and call it the coders’ revenge on the non-techie world.
 
But I would never make the mistake of publicly blaming it for my own shortcomings, which brings us to the latest political debacle: The DAP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) election results, in which the Opposition party had to reinstate a candidate after a discrepancy was discovered.
 
The party’s election director Pooi Weng Keong had to resign over the fiasco, which was strange since the whole thing was blamed on a “computer error.” In a report by English daily the New Straits Times, party members were said to have attributed the error to a “glitch when transferring the results calculated using Microsoft Excel.”
 
Even DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, in an open letter published in The Malaysian Insider, said: “The blunder however did not arise from any vote counting, as Zairil and (Vincent) Wu’s votes were properly counted and tabulated as 803 and 669 votes respectively but from a computer error ….”
 
It was strange to read that in a letter with the subject header “Honesty and humility must always remain qualities of DAP leaders” (emphasis mine).
 
DAP polls: If not the butler, you can always blame softwareAnother English daily, The Star, posed a pertinent question from an un-named technology consultant: “If it's a computer error, why did Pooi Weng Keong have to resign?”
 
Sure, it may have been a bona fide computer error. The system has not been audited by an external party to verify this.
 
But I am glad I’m not in my successor’s shoes now as the public relations manager at Microsoft Malaysia, because if my boss had called me in to discuss options, I would have had to be professional and advise the company not to dignify the loose allegation with a response.
 
But the personal me would have been itching to have sent an open letter to the DAP, offering a technical team to audit the party’s system to trace this “technical glitch,” with the promise to make all findings public. (Yeah, you can see why I decided PR -- public relations in this case, and not Pakatan Rakyat -- was not for me!)
 
Information technology is so much a part of modern life, woven into just about every aspect, that it has become the fall guy for just about everything. Every month, we read about how this company lost millions because of an accounting system error; how that stock market almost crashed because of a technical glitch; how those trains piled up because of a computer system failure.
 
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is buggy software out there, and system errors and technical glitches do occur. Like the tech industry used to say, “To err is human; to screw up royally requires a computer.”
 
Still, the phrase “computer error” has become the preferred euphemism for “we screwed up” or “oh darn, we shouldn’t make our software purchases at the pasar malam (night market).”
 
Let’s get this straight: It’s not a “computer error” when somebody screws up using a piece of software. It’s a human error.
 
After all, we don’t call it an automotive error when an idiot driver ploughs into a group of pedestrians, so why don’t we give IT the same courtesy?

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