Is Government Technology Intentionally Frustrating?

Apropos of the Obama staff's rude tech awakening in the White House, Megan McArdle asks, "Why is government IT so awful?" And ...
by | January 26, 2009

Apropos of the Obama staff's rude tech awakening in the White House, Megan McArdle asks, "Why is government IT so awful?"

And the answers keep coming. There's the outdated platforms and the stifling regulations. A lack of resources and the complexity of coordinating the tech needs of so many large and varied agencies don't help matters. One-size-fits-all rules that were written before many agencies even had websites further aggravates the situation.

Those answers capture much of the problem, I imagine. But spending as much time as I do digging through state government websites for information, I have come to think that sometimes the awfulness is intentional.

How else can you explain that some states have just about any info you could ever want easily accessible and searchable, while others hide everything but the governor's name? Surely it isn't THAT expensive or difficult to put the budget online or a directory of state offices somewhere near the homepage.

I believe the real security screw-ups and the IT project mega-disasters are honest-to-goodness mistakes or unintentionally poor planning, of course. But when I can't find basic government spending info online, I can't help but think that someone made a conscious decision to keep that bit of data less accessible.

And as it becomes ever easier to throw something on the web -- and as more and more internal processes are already electronic to begin with -- my suspicions only harden.

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Will Wilson  |  Former Correspondent
willbwilson@gmail.com

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