The failure of IT reform

June 10, 2012

Mark Forman and Paul Brubaker write in Federal Computer Week of 18 May 2012 on ‘Why IT reforms have failed to make much difference’. They ask for government IT reforms in three key areas:

  • “Clear authority, responsibility and accountability”
  • “Clear goals for productivity gains”
  • “A viable, transparent common framework for creating new government operating processes”

Whilst I agree with the need for the reforms, from three people who’ve occupied senior posts as government officers I would have expected less naivety. We’ve had a brief change when the Chief Information Officers got to the top of the greasy poles around the place but in far too many cases what they said wasn’t welcome – they too asked for processes to be changed, for technology to be employed after the services we re-aligned and that it wasn’t a matter of technology.  Similarly they will have pointed out the need for outcomes that are deliverable but requiring changed processes.  Given the politicized system’s inability to deliver solutions to these, the CIO will have found themselves unable to deliver and being replaced with a technical functionary who does what the politicians and their advisors request without demanding wider change.



November 8, 2011

Alice Lipowicz reports in Federal Computer Week that e-rulemaking is having something of a comeback in the United States. One example is that of the Federal Transportation Department which has been working with Cornell University Law School on outreach projects to generate discussion around particular topics such as making air travel websites and kiosks accessible to those with disabilities, which given the volume of internal US flights is probably a hot topic.

However one or two law Professors are not so sure about the progress, with one suggesting that e-government is hard enough to get right initially without the more difficult issues surrounding  involved in legislation including the resources required to develop it. It is also stated that links to e-rulemaking facilities are disappearing as web portals are improved for the citizen. However, it is also admitted that the need to include citizens in the lawmaking process is more important, but that the number of electronic tools is limited, perhaps as a result of the processes themselves.

In fact, as needs to be admitted as a part of the whole transparency debate, if the processes are complex and the data obscure, nobody will be happy. There is a need for reform of the mechanisms as a whole, otherwise the processes will be seen as an attempt to smokescreen change from the citizens. Publishing data is standard and open formats that can employ reusable tools may eventually be arrived at, but only if governments wish to be transparent, but at the moment the feeling appears very mixed.