If you take a step back, before the internet age, and examine the way our government handled our data, be it paper forms, tax returns, applications, etc. Back then packages were mailed to you and after filling in all you personal information you sent the completed package back to the government department or agency. This was simply the way the government did business and served citizens. Back then, public servants were focused on the business, and became experts in their line of work. Although the processes were slow and manual, but it was quite a well oiled machine.
Before the information age there were concerns about data, where it was stored, who had a key to the file cabinet, and how it was backed up, if at all. The same concerns still exist today, but on a larger scale. As the internet evolved and information became more easily collected using web pages and e-mail, concerns about securing the data became first and foremost.
Today, government has become consumed by technology. They have set up IT shops to build applications, maintain them and secure their data. What about the business? The single reason the government department was established: To server businesses and citizens with their required needs. You cold argue that IT is addressing those needs, but they are simply only an enabler. Business needs drive IT.
Today, government has many similar applications performing essentially the same tasks which include collecting, processing, analyzing and securing. And the biggest question of all is why these applications and data still residing within the department? Is it the fact that it has just become the normal view that they collected and stored data before, so they continue to do the same today?
What if for one second we looked at the entire situation and said, what if there was one IT shop for the entire government, a central place where applications are hosted and data is securely stored. This would promote re-use, establish an entire SOA architecture and no doubt save money.
Government should use offsite outsourcing and leave the development, management and servicing to trained professionals who’s daily focus is ensuring the application in up and that the data is secure.
Just today I was at a meeting where the lead developer was leaving the team, and the project was seen as being at risk. Government should not need to be concerned about an IT project not working out, they should bet back to the basics of serving businesses and citizens.