366 days of gratitude


Are you old enough to remember when toll calls were made only for matters of great importance?

My father was Scottish but I don’t ever recall him phoning his family in Scotland. Correspondence was by mail with the very rare exception of telegrams when the news was deemed urgent.

My mother’s family lived in New Zealand but toll calls to them were few and far between.

Now thanks to technological improvements national and international toll calls cost much less  and innovations like Skype and WhatsApp  give us alternatives to phoning.

Today I’m grateful for technology which makes keeping in touch easier and less expensive.


Communication better and worse


Through one of the marvels of modern Science, I am enabled, this Christmas Day, to speak to all my peoples throughout the Empire. I take it as a good omen that Wireless should have reached its present perfection at a time when the Empire has been linked in closer union. For it offers us immense possibilities to make that union closer still.

These are the opening lines of the first royal Christmas broadcast, made by King George V in 1932, the background to which you can read here.

Illustrating how far communication has come since then, this year’s royal Christmas speech is on YouTube.

Technological advances have made it much easier, and relatively cheaper, to communicate with people all around the world.

When I went on my OE in the early 80s, I made two phone calls home in 11 months. Our daughter’s on her OE now and we chat several times a week via Facetime or skype.

It is much easier for politicians to communicate through their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

However, how much of these messages go much beyond those already supporting them or political tragics keeping up with the other side is a moot point – at least until they make a SMOG (Social Media Own Goal) when the message is likely to go far further than they’d like.

There is a downside to this easy communication though and that sometimes people ignore the people they’re with while concentrating on phones or other mobile devices.

As Einstein said:

I fear the day that technology will surpass our interaction the world will have a generation of idiots.

Court via Skype


Courts Minister Chester Borrows has announced Oamaru will be the first place in New Zealand to trail Skype in Family Court hearings.

Oamaru has been without a permanent courthouse since November when the building was deemed an earthquake risk, and Mr  Borrows said while temporary alternative locations were being  sought, audio visual technology would be trialled with a sitting Family Court judge on August 14.   

Existing audio visual platforms, such as Skype, were reliable and efficient enough for use in court, he said, adding that the idea also had backing from legal professionals in the town.   

 Following the trial run, a larger six-month trial, which would take place in Family Court proceedings from Oamaru south, would occur in September, Mr Borrows said.

This will save time and money for lawyers and their clients.

Skype works well for interviews and meetings, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work as well for court.

Reducing distance via Skype


Getting round the country’s largest general electorate is no easy job but it becomes even more demanding for the local MP when he’s also Deputy Prime Minsiter, Finance Minsiter and Infrastructure Minister.

However, Bill English plans to use technology  to help him keep in touch with his constituents in Clutha Southland which covers 38,247 square kilometres.

Being in charge of two plum ministerial portfolios will mean more time in the Beehive for Mr English, who said he would be calling on internet video technology to make sure his face was still seen regularly in his electorate.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m hoping to try a few experiments, like using Skype so that I can still do face-to-face meetings, even when I’m in Wellington,” he said.

Mr English expressed little concern over taking on the demanding position of Finance Minister at a time of international economic turmoil.

“It’s going to be a hard job with things the way they are now, but if there’s one thing I learned from my time farming in the south it’s how to be resilient.”

When Eric Roy was asked his opinion of parliament in his earlyd ays as an MP he said there were too many people up there  who’d never had a bad lambing.

Bill’s had more than his share bad lambings, literally and politically. Those experiences and the skills he used to deal with them will be invaluable in handling his demanding new responsibilities in very challenging times.

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