A little over a month ago, IT Business Edge's Mike Vizard called for an Time for Overdue Review of Government IT. He cited Congressional testimony from the inspector general for the Securities and Exchange Commission, during which the official faulted the lack of a database for tracking tips and complaints as one reason the SEC failed to discover the $65 billion Bernie Madoff fraud. And, oh yes, the SEC also cannot access outside databases, so for all intents and purposes "has been living in what amounts to a digital hole in the ground," wrote Vizard.
It turns out there are plenty of inside critics of government IT, too. Jeffery Zients, the White House's chief performance officer, taps outdated IT systems as a major hurdle to improving government performance, reports Federal Times.com. Said Zients:
IT has been the major driver of the productivity gains and the service quality improvements in the private sector over the last decade. And from what I've seen, the government has missed out.
Unfortunately, Zients offered no specific ideas for improvement. He is "really excited" by initiatives at several agencies in which employees are asked to offer suggestions. Examples: The Office of Management and Budget launched a contest to solicit ideas to save money. The Veterans Affairs Department got more than 3,000 ideas when it asked its employees to offer advice on clearing a huge backlog of disability claims. According to the article, the department hopes to follow through on several of the ideas.
Certainly that's a start, though much heavy lifting likely will be required to turn these ideas into reality. The article doesn't say how the feds are collecting and vetting ideas, but I wonder if social tools are playing a role? Perhaps the feds need something like Dell's IdeaStorm for government. Heck, let the constituents in on it, too.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration employed a platform called MixedInk, which allows participants to post and rate contributions, to solicit recommendations for making the federal government more transparent.