Once again a government department has shown it’s total absence of any knowledge of IT.

Now for over 10 years I worked either for the NSW Department of Health or Western Sydney Area Health Service in IT.  From the very beginning it was glaringly obvious, that those pulling the strings in the upper bureaucracy, had not only no idea, but were totally unwilling to even listen to those of us trained IT personnel, when we said that things were being done incorrectly and would fail.

The powers to be get this idea in their heads as to what they want, all other issues are irrelevant, even if failure of the system is at stake. The issue is that they will never admit to being wrong and never do anything to correct it.  The reason I left the project with the DoH is that after 10 years and half a billion wasted dollars they changed their minds and did something different.

This is the second government IT initiative that has gone very wrong, The Census Fiasco and now The Centrelink Fiasco, now I would be the last person to say we shouldn’t use technology, but if we are going to use technology we need to look at several points.

  • Accessibility: A large proportion of Australians, especially older Australians, more specifically the 60+ age group have very little computer skills, a significant proportion have no internet access what so ever.
  • Ease of Use: With all our “whiz bang” technology and programming software available today all software should be so intuitive it virtually runs itself, most forms should be no more then a few clicks of the mouse.
  • Robust Software: WOW Who would have thought of this one.
  • An Option B: A fall back plan or escape route.

Now this fall back plan, option B should be one that works, if there is any doubt, then you need a plan C, complicated stuff, sure! Let’s look at one problem that is glaringly wrong.

Because of the extraordinary number of people found by the new automated system the telephone and computer systems for accessing centrelink enquiries has gone into meltdown.  People trying to ring, or access the online services were either not getting through, or having very long waiting times, hours. Now due to a large number of complaints, the Minister for Human Services, the bureaucracy that is responsible for Centrelink, if people couldn’t wait on the phone or couldn’t access the systems, there was always plan C, go into the Centrelink office personally.

When it was pointed out to the minister that if you do this, Centrelink staff just point you to their free phone and internet access … next! So you are back at point one, unable to access the service, it’s a lot like the song “There’s a hole in the bucket”, it’s an endless loop.

Here is the flow chart

Notice it is an endless loop, no way out.