The Oireachtas Communications, Energy and Natural Resources committee has complied a report into using the cell broadcast facility in emergency situations. It’s a useful idea but then I would say that as the idea that we should look into using cell broadcast for emergencies was mine. I can’t help feeling a bit like that character playing by Arrabella Weir who suggests solutions to problems who no one listens to but they then go on to repeat her idea as if it was their own.
This lack of attribution annoys for two reasons. Firstly, on a personal level it being noted publicly that I was the person who contacted Simon Coveney and the minister for communications in the immediate aftermath of the flooding in Cork pointing out the potential that cell broadcast offered for contacting people in a defined geographical area in emergencies would have been helpful to me workwise. If you want to be able to sell yourself as someone who can put two and two together it is a requirement that it’s recognised when you do so make such a connection. I had been doing a superficial investigation into cell broadcast for a commercial idea that didn’t prove as feasible as I thought but it meant that uses for cell broadcast was in my mind when the floods in Cork happened. This contact with the Oireachtas resulted in a parliamentary question and a response that the idea would be looked into.
Secondly, and more significantly there is a general point here that there is no acknowledgement anywhere in the report or the reporting of it that the impetus for this came from a member of the public. It’s as if the idea came out of the sky and fell into the lap or minds of the Oireachtas committee members completely unbidden.
This sort of thing appears to happen a lot with our politics and in Irish society in general, someone suggests an idea to someone who has a position that can give the idea a bigger audience, they run with it which is all to the good but then they behave as if the idea was their’s all along. It’s not even like this adaptation of sms was all down to me, the idea is in use elsewhere I was bringing it to the attention of someone who could bring it to public attention. Yet in this case the chain of attribution is broken. In academic and commercial circles to not acknowledge properly the contribution of others can lead to career problems and awfully expensive legal cases.
What we should be doing more of in Ireland is to encourage people in society to contribute in whatever way they can and ensure that they are given proper attribution for the contribution they make. The same with politics what we should be doing is encouraging more people to contribute to the wider public discourse and where that contribution has value acknowledge it. We’re supposed to foster a culture of speaking up and mucking in, but this response makes me wonder if you have a decent idea or see a connection you should keep it to yourself.
And this experience plays into one of the problems we have with the development of a knowledge economy, one of the most basic components for a knowledge economy to work is that there be appropriate attribution and credit given to all concerned and that intellectual property be protected. If the culture instead is one where those who contribute to ideas or insight are not worth noting as being party to that process then why would those people choose to site here at all?