Tuesday, December 15, 2015

SMART and smart....

The defintion of "Smart" changes with time. 

About half a century ago, we used to call some people,  Smart.  It didn't always have anything to do with their grey cells.

For most of the smart types, it was the outward impression they projected .

1. Well turned out, quick thinking, articulate and so on.

2. There were also situations and people , which were unsavoury,  and those who  emerged unscathed from them, ethically or unethically,  were also called Smart.  We have a surfeit of such folks today.

3. And then there were those, who regardless of looks, size and connections, simply exuded a certain inner smartness that had you gaping in awe.

For some reason, today "smart" is often misconstrued  to mean some kind of jugaad that someone indulges in ,  despite the system.  Sometimes at higher levels .

In the big rush to e-fy our lives,  screens and chattering printouts are considered more important than truth and simple security measures to maintain data integrity.

A big nationalised bank, at a major city branch, had a manager who blithely codified some new account number that was identical to mine. The new person with the account number was listed at the aforesaid branch's extension counter, and not main branch, and the manager , forgot to codify that. For 6 months , large sums would magically appear in my account and disappear the next day.  Till I demanded an explanation , and figured it out myself since no one including the manager had a clue.  In my old IT job 40 years ago, when "e" was not yet in fashion, they would have fired me for this.  When i explained to them what caused the error, the fact that the managers ignorance was exposed was more important than  the need for errorfree careful codification practices as per training manuals, and they couldn't wait for me to disappear .   Then i found out no one knew where the system user manual was. 

So smart.  

At a leading National Institute,  there is a careless attention to who can read and who can modify data pertaining to employees.  Normally, sensitive employee data is handled at the highest levels of HR , and modify rights are given to responsible well trained entities, who are conversant with the HR practices followed .  Perhaps a sense of euphoria at being e-fied has shut their eyes to the fact, that the security section folks, who are charged with creating identity cards for employees, have data modification rights which are sometimes used with ignorance of facts. They are oblivious to various new titles, posts, and their entitlements, thanks to a blissfully unaware  HR section, and have been known to ask questions for clarifications to those seeking a knew ID card.  Why security sections should , in the first place , be able to modify HR data is puzzling.  At most places, HR does the decisions and makes appropriate modifications , and others just read and follow procedures.   But we don't.

So smart .

 At another place, an employee  notices an error in the monthly e-salary slip, and brings it to the notice of the concerned staff.  A correction is requested.  Since salaries are processed in batch mode each month, the employee is told he will be issued a physical salary slip, reflecting the change.  (I am sure, the existing system is designed to cater to changing data, recalculating, and printing/uploading  the correct salary slip, but instead of being trained in the system, shortcuts rule , with a complete disregard for what will go in the archives.  ) .   Someone creates a screen shot, modifies some stuff, prints out the salary slip, which is blindly signed by some higher up, and carelessly sends it off. Very clearly, it has to pass through several upper levels before despatch . Maybe it did not. Because the person in question, got a slip showing the correct amounts, and a printout at the bottom, saying that the salary for June was being paid at the end of May (of the same year) !   A case of bad copy-paste careless jugaad. And Time Inversion.  Who cares ?

So smart .

There are endless examples.  

But then sometimes, a nondescript city office, understands it all.

Applying for copies of a death certificate , one submitted paperwork relating to the doctor's certificate, cremation office certificate and so on. On checking back on the appointed day,  one is told that there is a descrepancy between the date of death as seen on the doctor's certificate and as mentioned on the cremation certificate. It is clear that someone at the cremation office has been careless.  One is then told, that data as it is submitted has been uploaded, the system has pointed out the mismatch, the particular city office is not empowered to make corrective changes, and one needs to go to a specific office at the Corporation Main Office, with specified timings. One rushes there with the  requisite paperwork and application letter,  the modification is done , recorded and signed by a person with the requisite authority, and one rushes back to the original regional office,  where the work is done.

Someone , somewhere has applied thought, and trained folks regarding that. Kudos.

It is admirable, that despite so many places that have other considerations before someone at a window presses "Enter" and generates a paper , this place continues to follow the original definition of "service" , in the face of e-fication of lives. 

And so I actually shudder at the thought of  cities becoming smart.  It is all fine to hanker after catching up with the world.   But we need a citizenry that understands and respects rules.  And by extension, leaders who also follow rules themselves.

And thereby lies the catch . 

 For some strange reason, this business of Smart Cities,  keeps bringing to mind, this concept we have, of Sister Cities. Mumbai has 7 sister cities .  Berlin (GER), London(UK), Los Angeles(USA), St Petersburg(Russia), Stuttgart(GER), Busan( and Yokohama.

Two mayors meet, present to each other the "keys" to the cities, someone signs some memorandum, they shake hands and voila! we have sister cities.  And no one learns anything from the other. 

Perhaps we need Guru-Shishya cities .....

I wish everything was as simple........


  1. Bang on. Wonder what they mean by smart cities when the air we breath, the water we drink and the food we eat is laced with carcinogens. The vehicles spew toxic gases and mindless construction is creating havoc. You are right, what exactly is smart? Just a smart name, perhaps.

    1. I sometimes think we were indigenously smart people. And then we lost out in the big race to keep up .... hmm..

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