Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The role of technology in democracy, joining the conversation

Lately, top Smartmatic executives have attended several international events to contribute to a much needed debate on the role technology is called to play on the future of democracy. Just in the past month our CEO Antonio Mugica and our Chairman Mark Malloch-Brown participated in three important debates in Athens, Washington DC and New York.

These events not only represent a great opportunity to shape the future of the industry but also to share the whys and wherefores of our work and our solutions. Here are those events and our contribution:

1. Our experience. On September 15, Smartmatic shared its one decade’s worth of experience strengthening democracy through elections in the Athens Democracy Forum. While presenting the work we have been doing to improve governance, our CEO Antonio Mugica expressed that “From creating reliable biometric voter registries in Zambia and Bolivia, to helping citizens decide on how to allocate public resources in Chile, and conducting the world's largest e-counting project in the Philippines, we’ve made an important contribution towards better governance,”. He added that there is still plenty of work to do but we are committed to face the challenge providing technology-enabled solutions to democracies around the globe. 

2. Our innovative solutions. We are convinced of the enormous possibilities new technologies are presenting to engage civil society and promote a more fluid communication between governments and constituents, and we are developing new platforms for it. On October 8, the Founders Forum for Good in NYC was the chosen scenario for Antonio to express the Smartmatic’s commitment to digital technologies being developed to broader electronic engagement of citizens with their governments. Our CEO noted “In the near future, there will be platforms and tools that will increase the levels of engagement existing between governments and citizens. The raw political energy that now manifests through Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, will find better and more adequate channels of communications.” 

3. Our engagement with industry prospects. The future of voting might be digital, but there is a journey to go and we want the world to know that we are part of it. In a debate during the October 9 Atlantic Council event ‘Democracy Rebooted: The Future of Technology in Elections’, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown said to the panel of How Can Technology Support a More Robust Democracy?: “it’s all about technology offering solutions to what people see as the principal issues, whether it is removing depressions to registration, enlarging the number of people who can vote, getting overseas military able to vote, helping other people to vote (…) technology can come in to provide a solution either through Internet voting or through something which is more interim such a better electronic voting equipment.” Furthermore, Antonio assured “The future of voting is digital. As we’ve seen with new form factors and in future-thinking countries like Estonia, new technology will reshape the democratic landscape for the better.” 

4. We are pioneers and a big player in election technology. Of the eight countries currently pioneering election automation, Smartmatic provides voting technology and services to six of them. While in the Unites States, and with elections right around the corner, Mugica took the opportunity to emphasize the fact that Smartmatic has provided technology and support services to the Electoral Commissions of 307 counties in 16 American states including California. “The current voting infrastructure in the U.S. is obsolete, underscoring the need for better voting technology, and Smartmatic is committed to providing counties and states with the most advanced technology and know-how to ensure voters have a positive voting experience.” 

5. The time is right for spreading our mission and vision and demystifying some common assumptions about electronic voting solutions. While the Atlantic Council invitation read “We are at a crucial moment to review the policies that influence elections and the technology we use to execute them,” our Chairman was cited in this CityLab article saying “Smartmatic is already working with poorer countries on lease-finance models that spread out the capital costs to make the technology more affordable, and is exploring ways to do the same in the U.S.” Malloch-Brown added that “You can run an election now much cheaper than if you stick with the trashed-out equipment and older solutions, but it requires politicians to say this has to be adopted and done in a way that’s fair to everybody.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Smart-Confessions: Testimonies from Smartmatic parents (Part III)

Yoslanie and Juan José: “Parenthood has bound us together as colleagues and friends”

“Challenging and creative” are the two words that first come to mind to Yoslanie when she describes the process of harmonising work and parenthood. She and Juan José have two toddlers, Julieta (3) and Juan Ignacio (1 ½).

Yoslanie and Juan José tell us that two of the most valuable lessons they have learned since entering the world of parenthood are “mastering multitasking and establishing priorities”. “Every time one of us has something especially important to do at work that might affect our family routine, we sit down and discuss priorities. Fortunately, we know each other very well, and as coworkers, we always agree on what works best for the entire family.

Yoslanie admits that parenting has brought enormous changes to their lives, but “fortunately, the company has been tremendously flexible and we’ve been able to adapt to our new family routine.”

Just as some other double parents pointed out in previous posts, she says that sharing time and experiences with other first-time parents inside the company has been very rewarding. “We have shared anecdotes and unending memories about our children. This has bound us together and enriched our daily routines at work.”

For Smartmatic, the smartbaby-boom brought some unexpected positive results among employees. In the case of Yoslanie, she notes how open and warm other parents were to them when they announced their pregnancy.

“We felt the empathy of many colleagues right away. Because we were a bit lost in the complex world of parenthood and we were just moving to another country with the company, our coworkers became our family. Those who were already parents gave us world advices and offered invaluable help. Nowadays, we share ideas, recommendations and tips. The best part is that these days, we are not longer limiting our conversations to work. We now have a shared favourite topic: our kids and parenting; and it could not be better!”

In spite of the time and effort they put into their careers and all the dedication that parenting requires, Yoslanie and Juan José have kept their love for dancing intact. “One anecdote we cherish, is how a few years ago we planned to go to Smartmatic’s Christmas Party. We love those parties! But with two kids we have to get really serious about finding someone to look after them or as a last resource, bringing them alone. Yes, we have actually done that! Two years ago we took Julieta to the party, and when we got there, we realised that she was the only baby. Luckily, she behaved wonderfully, and even had the chance to hit the dance floor while she was napping in her pram next to us.
The following year, we were 8 months pregnant with Juan Ignacio, and once again, we didn’t want to miss the party, so we decided to find someone to babysit Julieta. Coincidentally, Julieta’s godfather –who also works in the company- said he didn’t feel like partying so he offered staying to take care of our daughter. We will never know if he really didn’t feel like going or if we looked just too desperate. However the case,  to this day we are grateful he ‘sacrificed’ himself for our family. Yet, we did go with Juan Ignacio (but still in the belly…)”

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Smart-Confessions: Testimonies from Smartmatic parents (Part II)

Geraldine and Kimo: “If we want to teach her the importance of balance in life, we better start by setting the example”

Samanta, who is nearing the ‘terrible two’, is the daughter of Geraldine and Arquímedes. They both confess to have fallen in love with the idea of parenthood right from the very same day they received the BIG NEWS.

For this first-time parents, balancing work and family has not been an easy task. “In Smartmatic the dedication and commitment to work is immense. And parenthood requires at least the same amount of devotion, if not more. We have been trying to find the right balance and find harmony between our obligation to excel at work and the responsibility of teaching values to Samanta. We’ve come to terms with the idea that, if we want to teach her the importance of balance in life, we better start by setting example.”

Comparing project management methodologies and parenthood, Kimo concludes that one of the main differences is that in methods such as PMI, ITIL, SCRUM, there should be more people management skills involved. “The human side of management needs to be more present in project management methodologies. Most of these managerial practices focus on processes to achieve the success of the project and the delivery of products/services to the clients, but unfortunately they still lack that human touch. Given that every project of the company depends heavily on human interaction, I see a big lesson from parenthood to be learnt. When you are a parent, people management means everything.”

“As a father you cannot measure your objectives in terms of expected quality, required costs and fixed deadlines; even if that sounds right from a management perspective. Our children are human beings that need our support, care, love, teachings, patience, commitment and our example. Unfortunately, this differs from what is expected from us in project management. Personally, I can’t avoid wondering if these methods should be learning more from parenthood and the skills needed to bring up a child.”

Although Kimo might come across as a dreamer, he goes even further to imagine managers having a clear goal of making their human resources better people.  “For me, focusing on people, which is what parenting is all about, should be a goal of every manager.”