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“Government agencies and programs operate in an informational stone age”


The ObamaCare Website Failure Was Inevitable.
This recent article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reinforced my belief that functional information governance in a digital world is still a long way off yet.

Federal information systems are rife with dysfunction, costing taxpayers billions. Dysfunctional information systems are endemic in the federal government. Officials’ incessant talk about living in a 21st-century information society that can generate “big data” to help solve our problems diverts attention from the stubborn truth: Many government agencies and programs operate in an informational stone age.

The report went on the highlight multiple failures by US agencies – many of which are documented on our website Lest We Forget.

These insights are not new. Last year’s NARA’s annual report found little improvement in agency records management over the previous year.

You can never solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created the problem in the first place.

Elinor Roosevelt

Current approaches to digital recordkeeping clearly aren’t working. The issue is not implementation, training, or change management. The issues are with the design of ‘recordkeeping” systems and include:

  • Time consuming, repetitive and disruptive data capture processes
  • Over reliance on the manual input of metadata
  • Allowing free text metadata entry (vs controlled metadata input) resulting in poor quality metadata
  • Poor integration with business processes

The state of our systems

System design is a major issue. The state of our systems leaves users free to improvise, abbreviate, misspell, enter the wrong selection or just opt out. Why can’t we build systems that force users to do the right thing, quickly and easily? Is it that difficult?

It goes without saying that system design is a theme that I wish to investigate further this year.

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