I can’t help noticing how governments at State and Federal levels seem to struggle with software these days. Robodebt, the Census, Solar rebate software in Victoria, the education department some years back.

All are outsourced these days and it seems to me the government departments Logo Design News This Week (3.44) | Logo Makerdon’t have the skills to test the software before it goes “live”. (Assuming there is any testing done at all)

Initially, the idea of outsourcing was supposed to offer better performance and costs, but I would argue that has not been delivered. All we have achieved is an outsourcing of blame. Now when a system crashes on launch, “It’s the Software”.

Not the department.

Not even the software writing company.

It’s the software. We don’t even get a hint of which company wrote the offending code.

The Education department item I mentioned above was a magnificent concept Ultranet (product) - Wikipediathat I came into contact with after it went “live” and promptly fell flat on it’s face. It turned out the hardware in schools was generally not good enough to run Ultranet. Even the testing after the crash was fatally flawed. The testing regime was altered halfway through the project which made comparison testing impossible. (Thank you Hewlett Packard)

I don’t know if that particular software is still in use but I hope so. The concept was brilliant, it just needed a more intelligent roll out process.

Eventually the end customers do the testing for government departments, but wouldn’t it be better if we “did it once and did it right”? It would certainly be cheaper for the taxpayer.

If think I’m sounding like a Grumpy Old Fart this morning, then you would be right on the money. I’ve just been dealing with Centerlink’s on-line system which is about as unfriendly a user interface as I have ever had to deal with. The system isn’t crashing, but one false click and you are dead in the water.

Granted it is trying to cobble together a number of different government departments all in one on-line system, but the use of different terminology, help links that aren’t specific to the box you want to fill, reputed help line phone numbers that offer you further help line phone numbers, and pretty soon you need a Bex and a good lie down. I’m attempting to apply for the Aged pension and the interface is making me feel my age.

The frustrating thing about it all is on-line systems, intelligently designed, should offer a cheap and efficient method of delivering government services. They should inspire confidence in their users and lessen the fear of technology that can often be present.

Unfortunately it doesn’t. It looks cobbled together, doesn’t warn you of expiry of emailed codes, and seems to delight in locking you out of their system.

  • Where would I start to fix the system? How about testing with folk who aren’t software writers?
  • How to measure improvement? Test how many dead accounts are being created and measure the improvement.

And how to improve software rollouts over all departments? Publish the names of the companies writing the code. Nothing like forcing companies to take Public responsibility to see their care factor improve.

Now where did I put that envelope? I’m going to mail this sucker in.

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