Agenda on computers first good step

Published 1:06 pm Saturday, January 7, 2012

Every now and then, someone that’s in a position to know better does or says something that makes me shake my head and roll my eyes.

Comments made this week by members of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors, in response to a suggestion regarding the possible cost savings and efficiency that could be achieved by using computers in lieu of paper agendas for board meetings, is a perfect example.

Supervisor Barry Porter made the recommendation, and it’s an option that I agree with and other governing bodies have either adopted or have been studying.

It’s a good idea on a couple of significant fronts.

First, the upfront cost of purchasing the computers, whether they be laptops or iPads, or other similar technology, could be offset in a reasonably short period of time. It would reduce the cost of paper for printing lengthy meeting agendas and related documents, the wear and tear on the county’s printers and copiers, and the time spent printing, copying, collating and distributing documents for board meetings.

It’s a smart business option, and one that makes sense for a governing body whose majority was recently elected on a platform of reducing wasteful government spending.

Secondly, and forgive a little sarcasm, but it is 2012, and everything is done on a computer. It is typically more efficient and productive.

Farmers use computers to track weather forecasts and planting conditions for a more plentiful crop — a crop they harvest, by the way, with combines and pickers that are significantly more advanced than a decade ago.

Students as early as prekindergarten use computers daily because they enhance their learning and intellectual growth.

This column, which at one time would have been done with a typewriter and a gallon of whiteout, is being composed on a laptop computer and will be emailed to my editor before a computer sets the type and gets it ready to go on the press. We all use computers now because, quite frankly, not using one just doesn’t make sense.

I’m assuming most, if not all, of our supervisors have cell phones. Resisting the opportunity to better utilize computer technology for conducting government business would be the equivalent of a board member resisting the opportunity to use a cell phone because their rotary phone has a 30-foot cord. No one would do that today because it would be patently absurd.

Yet that was the position taken by a few board members this week when the idea of going to computer technology was raised, creating, at least for me, the opportunity for a little head shaking and eye rolling.

This is an example that puts into perspective exactly where we are as a community. We have many who are ready to move into the future and some who maintain a white-knuckled grip on the past.

Technology and improved efficiency aren’t ideas we should fear and resist; they are to be embraced and implemented. Technology won’t cause us to lose our identity, but helps better maintain who we want to be by allowing us to communicate more efficiently with each other and the world around us.

I’ve never been a farmer, but I can tell you this. I’ll bet there weren’t many farmers in our community who, when given the opportunity, didn’t trade in their plow and ole’ Bessie the mule for a new John Deere.

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors should embrace every opportunity to better serve this county and continue moving forward, along with everyone else, into the 21st Century. If some members are hesitant to use a computer, it makes me wonder what other advancements they would hold back on.

TONY CLARK is the general manager and advertising director at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at