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Difficulties With Everything Going On-line

I have used computers since 1982 when I was nine years old. I attended a special school called the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in Dublin where I was introduced to computers, specifically Apple computers.

This new technology was a game changer for me. I had gone from a manual typewriter where I had to use tippex fluid to correct every little mistake— to using the new computer where I just had to press the delete button! As the years have passed, I was able to keep up with technology. However, in the last few years the technology has advanced so much that I am finding it hard to keep up. This is especially true when it comes to banking or other public services. For example, when I ring the County Council, the first thing anyone hears is a voice recording about using the Council website, before you get to speak to any human being. I also remember last year when I had to ring the main Social Protection office, I was kept waiting on the phone for 45 minutes before a man answered my call at a minute to five. During my wait the website message was constantly repeated. However, since I was applying for my Public Services card, I couldn’t do anything with the website because I wasn’t registered yet. I was ringing to ask for a specific appointment time to go into the local office to go through the required steps to get the card and answer the questions that would give me the access to the website.

Previously when I had tried to get the card by going in person to my local Social Protection Office, I was told that the queue was four hours long. I knew I couldn’t wait four hours because I had to return home to take a call. Instead, I was told to come back the following Monday. The security guard heard me when I said I couldn’t wait four hours. When I did go from my appointment on Monday the same security guard said to me: “Oh, so you decided to get up earlier?” implying that earlier I had been too lazy and impatient to go through with the long-wait process. The PA who was with me felt defensive and said that she just started her job in the morning and it was not possible to get there any earlier! After the appointment was finished, I was very relieved.

Another example of frustration with technology was what happened recently to my mother. She went to a her newly automated bank to withdraw some money. The ATM machine was larger and more sophisticated than ones she was familiar with. When she selected the money amount (€200) on the touch screen, she didn’t see the money arriving in front of her in a slot nearly at eye-level. A small horizontal trap door had opened, it was sliding upwards to present her with the money. She was looking elsewhere—to her right and then below the screen. She wasn’t aware then that the trap door slid shut. She went to a clerk who happened to appear, to explain what was going on. The clerk helped her, and again she typed in €200. She was astonished to see the trap door open in front of her and quickly reached out to pick the notes from the slot. The clerk assured her she would notify her manager about the missing €200. When my mother returned another day to find out the results of the notification, she was told that all the bank machinery was checked and there were no notes stuck in the machine. If it was the machine’s fault, she would get her money back. Since there was no problem with the machine, the fault was hers. But the problem was, my mother said, that the same money had been deducted twice according to her online bank account statement. It wasn’t the machine. She was given a number to contact the Fraud Department and told to wait thirty days and the money would be refunded if a mistake had been made. That didn’t happen. She was finally told to contact customer services, and to discuss the issue but that is still pending. Eventually she hopes to receive the money owed.

Whatever has happened to making old-fashioned discretionary decisions from a human perspective? I don’t mean just in banks, but in every service where you could hope to explain any difficult situation to a human being who over time might just actually know you?

In conclusion, I would like to say I hope we can stop relying so much on computers and bring back human staff and let them work alongside modern technology.

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