This will mean nothing to anyone reading but I will post anyway that today I am celebrating. The reason is that after 3 1/2 years of endless frustration, my Filipino partner now has an official birth certificate, driver’s licence and passport.
I’m not sure what would happen in Australia if an adult went to the Registrar of Births and applied for a late birth certificate, the birth never having been registered previously. In The Philippines, bureaucrats tend to look at you blankly and tell you to try somewhere else. Complicating my partner’s situation were the facts that his father died when he was a baby; his mother is illiterate and cannot swear even to the year of birth, let alone the place or the date; the attending midwife has long since disappeared; and nobody else can testify to the birth.
How has he managed all these years, you may be wondering? With a set of fake identity papers bought in the local market; you can see their availability advertised in the street in poorer parts of Manila (i.e. most of it). Good enough to satisfy the local schools but not good enough for government offices that issue licences and passports; not even good enough for post-secondary colleges. But even though there are millions of Filipinos in the same situation as my partner, nobody in officialdom showed any inclination to offer a solution. If you can’t register your birth with all the usual evidence from parents and so on that’s just your bad luck, apparently, and you can stay in a twilight zone the rest of your life.
Eventually persistence paid off and we found a way – not one that is found in any laws or regulations, needless to say – and in a surprisingly emotional Skype conversation, my partner said how happy he is that he is no longer an alien in his own country. Such a simple thing, being able to prove your identity with a birth certificate. It’s an overlooked but essential piece of infrastructure for modern societies, but one that is still a work-in-progress in third world countries.
I’m sure plenty of people who know more about ICT than I do have already discussed ad nauseam the reasons why owners of great software seem compelled to keep fiddling with it so it gets ever-slower and more unreliable. The latest example is Skype, which has booted me out of conversations twice in recent weeks. ’Configuration problems’ being encountered by ‘a small number’ of users caused the faults, according to the official version; which to judge by the online conversations translates into ‘another round of stuff-ups for just about everyone caused by our manic need to update the software about 17 times a week to fix bugs in previous updates’.
And Microsoft hasn’t even taken over yet, god help us.
Google to date seems to have avoided this tendency to self-destruct in the race to prove how clever you can be, but sadly it’s probably only a matter of time. No smug comments from Apply owners with more money than sense please.