Podcast 🎧 and blog: The pains of using tech buzzwords

29.09.2021 | Federico Plantera

We are wondering whether we are already taking sides, by using buzzword to describe the way that latest tech developments are often portrayed in media articles, tweets, or even vision papers and strategies. In this episode of the Digital Government podcast, Heiko Vainsalu, a Senior Expert on Technology at e-Governance Academy will debunk the most viral tech myths.

With him, we attempt to go beyond the formulas that too often we can all see flaunted in keynotes and the likes and shed light on the questions governments should ask themselves to truly walk the path of innovation. The podcast was hosted by Federico Plantera.


If it’s cool, then most probably it must be good

Mastering the craft of digital transformation in tens and tens of different countries around the world, as well as organizing and participating in conferences, of course exposed us to bright rays of tech buzzwords. Or even to the risk of using them, sometimes.

The issue with those is not the technology itself that they describe. Rather, the fact that something in fashion at that moment in time might not be the most suitable solution to the needs of the agent of innovation.

“If you ask, “why this specific technology”, indicated by a buzzword, or what is the reasoning behind such choice, sometimes spokespersons and representatives do not provide an actual answer. The problem lies there, where strategy papers get filled up with buzzwords for the sake of appearing modern, using cool technology,” Vainsalu says.


Buzzwords do help in a game of credentials. But then what?

Chasing tech buzzwords gives governments, companies, and consultants an own role in the race for credentials. Actors using them end up rather trying to enter the flow of the dominant narrative, and accredit themselves as part of the club of innovators – still, according to the standards of the moment.

This brings certainly reputational returns, especially on platforms where going deeper into use cases and the rationale behind decisions does not suit the medium. And so, we hear everywhere of cloud, infrastructure as a code, or leapfrogging. This last one, specifically, describes the case in point.

“See, that is not something that works for everyone. Some countries have gone through decades and many steps of e-governance development. In tech, this is occasionally possible, but not always, and that should be kept in mind,” Vainsalu explains.

“Newsworthy things are easier to communicate. However, fixing a 20-year-old problem may now take you to face another 10 years old problem, and that is already an achievement. Instead, people are going for solutions that temporarily show that you are 5 years ahead. But the prerequisites are not there.”


Questions that innovators should ask themselves

In place of starting from the solution, and then finding it a suitable problem to solve, governments must first identify the needs they have. Once at that stage, technology offers the toolbox to meeting those needs.

“Governments writing some solutions into digital transformation plans, in this sense, are already on the wrong path. Instead, by detecting the source of a certain problem, they then give engineers the necessary information to find a solution that is fit for purpose,” Vainsalu says.

“After all, this happens to me too. It’s a mistake everyone makes. Sometimes, I get excited about some kind of technology and want to find reasons for having it. But then I sleep on it, take pen and paper, and ask myself “what is the problem I have, what will this solve”, and how. Does this product solve problems I actually have? Good to buy!

But then, if it creates a whole other bunch of issues, then I perhaps do not need it. At home or at the government, I think this decision-making dynamic can be pretty similar,” Vainsalu concludes.


Listen to all episodes of the Digital Government Podcast here!

New episodes will be launched every Wednesday.