Information technology without a doubt is helping to restructure the very fabric of society, business and government. However, these changes do not come without challenges. For instance electronic health records (EHR) may harm the patient-physician interaction and are susceptible to hacker attacks.
A recent Fiscal Times article demonstrates how government programs often do not invest in IT infrastructure efficiently.
Meanwhile, the government has seriously struggled with its IT projects—most notably the launch of HealthCare.gov, the federal portal built to facilitate the sale of health insurance set up under Obamacare. The website, was so plagued with tech problems at the start of its rollout that only six people were able to sign up on the first day.
Eventually, HealthCare.gov received a massive revamp and repair effort that ballooned the project’s price tag to more than $2.1 billion, Bloomberg reported. Watchdogs still worry that it could be vulnerable to hackers.
Though HealthCare.gov is the most publicized federal tech flop, there are plenty of other examples where the government bungled an IT project. The Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department, for instance, abandoned a $1.1 billion program to build an integrated electronic health record system after failing to get the systems to communicate. In fact, almost none of the systems built are compatible agency to agency.
Why are government IT projects so expensive? There is no one answer, but for Healthcare.gov, the answer is partly due to poor organization. Bloomberg reports:
The construction of healthcare.gov involved 60 companies, supervised by employees of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instead of a lead contractor, according to the inspector general at the Health and Human Services Department. The project was marked by infighting among the contractors, CMS officials and top officials at HHS, the Cabinet-level department that oversees CMS, according to e-mails released Sept. 17 by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The GAOs 2015 High Risk List now includes “Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations” as one of its top risk to the federal budget.