Telework and telepolitics in Catalonia

Ordinarily this blog concerns “normal” telework, among other issues. But this time the focus is on telework as it happens to coincide with telepolitics in Spain’s region of Catalonia. In case you haven’t been following the goings-on in Catalonia because of Trumpruses here’s the story.

Background

Catalonia, although an official, semiautonomous region of Spain, has been chafing at the bit for decades if not centuries. Many Catalans want Catalonia to evolve into a separate country. The Spanish government is dead set against such a move. Nevertheless Catalonia, which has its own parliament, voted in a referendum on 1 October 2017 to become independent under its President, Carles Puigdemont. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, declared the referendum unconstitutional, null and void and set about arresting the leaders of the separatists. Rajoy also declared a snap regional election to be held on 22 December 2017 for the purpose of returning Catalonia to the fold.

It didn’t work. Catalans again voted to pretty much restore the previous separatist government, many leaders of which were in jail by that time. Except for Carles Puigdemont who exiled himself to Belgium shortly after the referendum, out of the clutches of the Spanish government who wish to arrest him for trial on rebellion and sedition charges.

Options for the next phase

So now the dilemma has risen: how does one rule a region if one is not physically present in that region?

Carles Puigdemont’s answer is: by Skype! Telework morphs into telepolitics. I know that George H. W. Bush used to declare himself a teleworker, referring to the many days he spent communing with the rest of the world while located at other than the White House. But full time? Can contemporary technology support all the nuances of communication required to govern an entire region/country, regardless of the location of the governor?

That is, how location-independent is the job of head of government, regardless of who the head is? On how many occasions for that job is actual face-to-face interchange required? On how many occasions will the incumbent need to be at a specific location in order to function effectively? Can the technologies supporting telework function effectively, and inexpensively, enough to allow everything to run smoothly?

In principle yes. In practice I doubt it, if only for cultural reasons.

For example, one of the Catalan parliament rules is that the leader has to present the government’s program “in front of the house.” So one of the first questions before governing begins is what does “in front of the house” mean? Is the leader required to be there in person or is a Skype connection on a large screen sufficient. Contemporary society is full of such ambiguities regarding the meaning of “in person”.

Therefore telework-related technology may still have trouble convincing people that perfectly visible is the same as in person. We may soon find out via this first test of the efficacy of full-time telework at this level of organization. Keep an eye on telepolitical events in Catalonia (I don’t mean a physical eye of course).

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