Learning from US TV

Like many Canadians, I grew up watching some, ok a lot, of US network television.  I admit that there wasn’t a great deal of educational value there.  Perhaps an episode or two of School House Rock that told me what conjunctions are, but not much more.  Now that Saturday morning cartoons don’t dominate my schedule, although I can’t pass on the Simpsons, those “educational” experiences are less overt.  But they still come up on occasion.

One such occasion happened a few years ago during the US mid-term elections.  It just so happens that the US network stations that we get here in the Nation’s capital herald from Detroit.  We Canadians were bombarded with campaign commercials from any number of candidates seeking seats on the US Congress or US Senate and perhaps even a few seats in important places.  Of course I can’t recall any of their names, nor tell you who won the important jobs.  I can tell you what struck me most was the commentary from the many autoworkers that lent their support testimonials in the TV ads.  Most of these people were supporting particular candidates for helping provide funds to keep their particular automotive plant open.  It struck me that perhaps these hardworking people would have been better served by funding training programs to prepare them in today’s evolving job marketplace.  The recent turmoil in the US automotive industry, personalized by the Oscar nominated HBO documentary “The Last Truck” suggests that perhaps more could have been done to better prepare these communities for the Digital Economy.  Let’s keep a close eye to make sure we really learned this lesson.

The second learning came more recently, well actually earlier this week when I saw another commercial.  Yes I only pay attention to the commercials.  This commercial from the Detroit Medical Center promotes a web-based real-time Emergency Room wait times at their five hospital facilities (http://www.dmc.org/ERwait ).  ER wait times are a key concern here in Ontario as well http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/waittimes/edrs/default.aspx.  Before you jump to conclusions about the results on either site, stop.  There are too many differences between the measurements to even start to make any reasonable assertion.  What we can learn is that someone, someplace in Michigan has found a way to report useful data about the ER in what seems to be a real time basis, and that the data is useful for the community to help them make an informed decision should they have the luxury to plan their visit to the ER.  This is the lesson of making data more readily available to empower individuals to make more informed decisions.  And that’s one to grow on…

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