May 6, 2020 – As the world moves rapidly into the digital age and Croatia holds the EU Presidency, the Mighty State of Uhljebistan clings to its own digital champion – the humble fax machine.
When did you last send or receive a fax? Do you remember?
Was it this year? Last year? Or this century or last?
Or, if you are a certain age, have you EVER sent a fax? Indeed, do you even know how to use one?
It seems that there is a large percentage of the population which is too young to have encountered the Fax Era.
Take this YouTube video, for example, close to a million views explaining how to use a fax.
I have very fond memories of our fax machine in St. Petersburg in 1992. Communications in post-Soviet Russia were terrible, but the fax seemed to work a treat. And in 1995, in Manchester, Moscow and Tampere in Finland, the office fax machine was busy sending waybills all over the world.
But when the hell did I last send a fax? It must be at least 10 years ago.
Why all the sudden interest in faxes? It all started with a mailshot I did to all the local tourist boards with our free promotional article offer for our Virtual Croatia initiative. The Croatian National Tourist Board kindly provided me with the contact database for all the local tourist boards. The list was extremely accurate and updated, but then I noticed something which was totally normal to someone who has lived in Uhljebistan for 18 years, but totally weird to someone who lives in the current digital world.
The contact details consisted of name, address, website, email, phone number. And fax.
And about 80% of Croatia’s 319 tourist boards have a fax. They probably have Instagram and Facebook – useful tools for 21st century tourism promotion, but it is the fax numbers that get recorded.
And the thing is that it didn’t seem weird to me until I tried to remember when I last used a fax machine. And it isn’t a criticism of the tourist boards, for this is the every day reality in Uhlejbistan. And, I realised, the fax is the symbol of that inefficient bloated bureaucracy that is our daily reality. The digital champion of Uhljebistan 2.0.
I was curious to see how things appeared on ministry websites. Here is the homepage of the Ministry of Tourism. There is a contact page, but on the homepage, there is a quick contact box. The year in 2020, Croatia holds the presidency of the European Union. No email here, baby, you can reach us by fax.
The Ministry of the Interior is a lot more progressive, with no fax and two email addresses – one for the police and one for questions.
Meanwhile the homepage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has decided to cope with the increased information demand of running the European Union by making two fax lines available, while only needing one telephone line and one email address.
Unlike less progressive countries such as Zimbabwe, where the facsimile seems to no longer exist – just three phone lines and an email.
Perhaps this fax obsession is an ex-Yugoslav thing, I mused, while searching to see how things are done in Slovenia. Oo, very modern.
Meanwhile, in faxless Albania, they have something called ‘WhatsApp’.
But in Croatia, there is only one digital champion.
I was beginning to wonder if it was just me, and so I decided to reach out to my Facebook friends to get their experiences. I asked three questions (and you can see the whole thread – my Facebook profile is public).
1. Have you sent or received a fax in the last 12 months?
2. If no, approx when was the last time you did.
3. And for our younger generation, have you ever used a fax?
The results were hilarious, all 77 comments so far, and I was surprised at the passion in the answers.
And it seems that, apart from some banks, the ONLY time people use faxes are when they have to interact with the Mighty State of Uhljebistan.
One of my favourite comments was from Jason in Split, whose punica seems to have found a good use for her fax machine as an ornament.
And spare a thought for young Mihaela, who at 23, has not only never used a fax but is not even sure what one looks like. I checked with my TCN intern who runs our Instagram account (and very efficiently too), and she had never used a fax in her 20 years in The Beautiful Croatia.
So it would seem that a large percentage of the citizens of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan are not equipped to use its technology, choosing instead to communicate by something called email, SMS and social media.
What are we to do? Enroll the population in a mass communication programme on how to use the fax machine?
Or perhaps, just perhaps, encourage the digital champions who run this country, that running the presidency of the European Union by fax machine in 2020 is so 1980s.
For the latest progressive developments from the Mighty State of Uhljebistan, follow our section of homage to the Promised Land.