21 May 2008


Today I spent a couple of hours doing fieldwork. My partner (whom I shall call B) and I went to survey the information flow, the computer equipment and the people who interact with it in one of the large public hospitals in Rosario. This is a job I'm prepared for but I'd never done it before, so I was looking forward to it. B and I are supposed to do this for all the major health centers in the city under provincial administration, but we're not getting real orders from anyone, so on our own we decided to start the survey and record the results, beginning with the hospital that is closest to our workplace.

We made a brief appearance there yesterday, and by the terrified looks we got from a couple of employees, it seems obvious that they think the new administration is out to plant spies among them, or worse, planning a general audit. In fact the audit has been quietly happening all this time. Previous administrations had a Supreme Leader take office and issue grandiose or inappropriate orders which might or might not be addressed to the proper person, and may or may not be physically complied with; this one sends out human probes who sit down, gently inquire about your activities and abilities, and then hand you a set of loose rules and leave you with something to do. That something is usually as great as it is vague, and (so far) comes with no funding and no immediate reward except your own sense of fulfillment. I didn't like it before. I'm not sure I like it now, when I think of things in the long run, but at least the painful feeling of doing stupid useless work for stupid useless people is gone.

B had to leave early so I was left with the hospital's IT people. They've developed a great system for the hospital, and (for a change) it seems the personnel uses it as they should. It's a pity those things can't be transferred automatically to a different place. The system runs on proprietary software, which is a problem, and requires robust equipment that most public health centers can't afford (or rather, that bureaucracy will never grant funds for), but the real problem lies in the people. So many are used to laziness and carelessness, and old habits die so hard...

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