Monday, August 12, 2013

Its Problem is IT

The recent Labor and Industry Department computer problems represent a potential growing concern that funds can be mismanaged. A great abuse facing government involves wrongful charges for operating and maintaining computers. A major public administration failure occurs when many of our elected officials and public sector managers lack the knowledge and ability to properly oversee their information technology (IT) departments. IT often involve specialized skills with code writing that only a select few understand. Yet, as IT departments can cost public sector departments many millions of dollars, this represents large amounts of funds being expended that few understand how it is being spent.

There have been instances in organizations worldwide where IT funds have been spent for services not rendered, for undeserved cost overruns, or otherwise mismanaged. What is required is for management to hire independent IT auditors who oversee that funds are properly spent. It is also important to oversee that the work is sharable and usable by others. A key mistake occurs when only a few people know how to operate any expensive system, thus providing these few people undeserved job protection. This has already been proven dangerous when one person was able to shut down the entire San Francisco government computers for several days because only he knew how to get the system working and refused to do so.

Government should also save money in IT costs by putting more information into “the cloud”, or the public arena, where it belongs (except for confidential personnel and security information). Thus there will be less need for IT maintenance expenses. Government data should be easily found and usable by the public. It should also be interactive. People should be able to post recommendations, opinions, or voice concerns and officials should be able to read them and respond. Government computer data should be democratic and not a fiefdom for a few.


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