Barack Obama’s administration messed up his big idea by making a balls of the website,,  which was supposed to persuade voters they wanted the Affordable Care Act.  Like so many of our own government IT projects, it was a fiasco, said John Naughton, technology correspondent of the Observer, 15.12.13.  He offered an explanation of why, which will sound familiar to anyone who has ever got lost in a bureaucratic maze  …

“It required applicants to open an account and let the site verify their identity, residence and income, before they could browse for insurance.  That meant the site would have to interface – in real time – with databases maintained by the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies.  Since those databases all run on their own timescales, and some are pretty slow, that meant that could only be as fast as its slowest link.  It would have been much smarter to allow anyone to browse without needing to verify their identity, and only require authentication when they were signing up to a healthcare plan.

“The strange thing about this is that you wouldn’t need to be a geek to have spotted the problem.  You just had to think architecturally about it. Yet apparently nobody in the administration did.  The same applies to the post 9/11 decision to link all the previously separate US security databases into one giant file to which at least 250,000 people had access, one of whom happened to be Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning …

“The message here” (UK) “is the same as with the Obamacare site.  This is not about computer science or technology but about common sense and good management.  The good news is that we could therefore do something about these fiascos.  The puzzle is why we are taking so long to get that message.”


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