A Fix-It Job for Government Tech
This article is part of the On Tech Newsletter. Here is a collection Rear column.
The US government’s technology has a reputation for being expensive and dangerous.
Computer systems sometimes work with Sputnik-era software. The Pentagon’s plan to modernize military technology is far from over after five years. Coronavirus (or epidemic) Nationwide (or continental epidemic) Nationwide (or continent), millions of Americans have struggled to get government help with unemployment insurance, vaccine visits, and food stamps because of red tape, flexible technology, and Other issues.
Whether you believe the government should be more or less involved in the lives of Americans, taxpayers deserve better value for the technology we pay. And often you don’t get it. Solving this problem is part of Robin Carnahan’s work.
Carnahan, a former Secretary of State for Missouri and a government technology adviser, was my mentor on how public sector technology can work better. Then in June, she was confirmed as administrator of the General Services Administration, the agency that oversees government acquisitions, including technology.
Carnahan said she and other Biden administration officials wanted the technology used to fight the war or pay taxes to be as efficient as our favorite app.
“Bad technology sinks good policy,” Carnahan told me. “We are on a mission to make government technology more user-friendly and to make us more aware of how we buy and use it.”
Carnahan highlighted three areas she wanted to address: First, change the process for government agencies to purchase technology to identify the need for constant updates. Second, make technology easier for people using government services. And third, make it more attractive for people with technical skills to work for the government, even temporarily.
It’s easier said than done. The people in the government have promised similar changes before and that is not an immediate solution. Poor technical performance is also often a symptom of bad policies.
But according to Carnahan, one way to build trust in the government is to prove that it is capable. And technology is a necessary area to show that.
Building that capacity starts with something very tedious – budgeting and shopping. As Carnahan told me last year, the way governments build bridges tends to fund digital infrastructure. They buy it once and try not to think too much about it for the next few decades. This mindset does not match the technology, which works best with constant improvement and maintenance.
Carnahan said she was trying to spread the message between Congress and government agencies that the approximate amount of government funding over time is a good way to buy the technology. Carnahan said the government should consider technology like the Lego set, whose pieces are regularly replaced or recreated. (Hey, metaphors work for me.)
She also hopes to use technology to alleviate headaches that make it difficult for people to access public services.
As an example, Carnahan stated that she wants to significantly increase the number of government services available through login.gov. There, people can create a single digital account to interact with more than one service, such as applying for a government job or filing for disaster relief for a small business.
And like so many people in government, Carnahan is building a pitch for people with the technical skills to work for the public sector. Part of her appeal is practicality and partly patriotism. “Government is the only way to improve people’s lives,” Carnahan said.
She said remote work has made government jobs more realistic for those who do not want to move to Washington, as well as programs such as the US Digital Service and the new US Digital Corps, which allow technicians to work alongside civil servants. .
Carnahan does not pretend that it would be easy to change the relatively deteriorating decades in government technology. But she thinks it’s important to do so now because technology is often the primary way to communicate with local, state and federal governments, whether it’s registering to vote or getting help with a Medicare claim.
“The basic premise is that people are frustrated with the way governments operate these days,” she said.
Before we go
How do we keep kids safe online? U.S. law prohibits the use of more or less Internet services by users under the age of 13. My colleagues at the New York Times Opinion spoke to young children online despite restrictions, and the US learns from new child-protection guidelines. Britain.
(Opinion Today has a story behind those smart kids. You can sign up here.)
Spyware hammer strikes: Apple has filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, an Israeli company whose software has been misused by the government to spy on the smartphones of human rights activists, journalists and dissidents. My colleague Nicole Pearlroth writes that the lawsuit and the recent blacklisting of the NSO by the US government may be a step towards greater oversight of the global spyware market.
Thoughtful gift ideas! The Times’ consumer technology columnist Brian X. Chen has some great ideas for tech-related holiday gifts that aren’t gadgets. (I bet Brian’s wife loves her digital photography lesson. Don’t spoil the surprise.)
He hugged her
I am obsessed with the NASA spacecraft launched today on a mission to orbit a sports stadium the size of an asteroid. Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either.
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