Obama’s Broken Promise of Better Government Through Technology – Businessweek

The top part of the article is typical Klein (intent is all that mattered, not execution, which he only allows to one party), but his writing about government in general and government IT in particular is interesting:

The saga of healthcare.gov has been a symphony of government inefficiency. The effort, directly overseen by the IT department of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, involved no fewer than 55 contractors. The process was thick with lawyers and political interference. In violation of current best practices in the software world, the code was kept almost entirely secret; other engineers weren’t able to point out its flaws, and it wasn’t tested rigorously enough. The Obama administration has been assailed for not calling in Silicon Valley’s top minds to collaborate, but that misses the fundamental problem: The best coders in the Valley would’ve never agreed to work under such deadening, unpleasant conditions.

There are people in Washington who share Bracken’s views, but their struggle against bureaucratic inertia can seem Sisyphean. “Government becomes really afraid of failure, which is a bit ironic, as this ends up leading to failure,” says Clay Johnson, a technologist who was one of the White House’s presidential innovation fellows. “But that fear of failure leads them to only want to work with known quantities, and known quantities mean contractors who’ve done this work in the past. That puts them with a group of entrenched vendors who haven’t really had to compete in the world of technology.”

That fear of failure has been institutionalized in the way the federal government awards contracts. The complex, arcane process favors those companies that devote resources to mastering it and repels the Silicon Valley startups the government desperately needs. “I realized I could figure out how to develop these very complex, very new software programs, or I could figure out how to contract with the government,” says Trotter, who worked on health IT projects with the Veterans Administration. “And so I chose to do the thing that was innovative.”

via Obama’s Broken Promise of Better Government Through Technology – Businessweek.

The front end of the website will eventually get fixed, then the back end. Then we’re going to wait for the employer mandate to hit. All this market disruption was just the self-insured, a very small piece of the health insurance pie.