Nothing is getting fixed until we fix our procurement processes across government. There is no doubt that technology exists that is much cheaper than our current solutions, but the hoops we have to jump through when we make purchases makes it impossible.
Example One: http://blog.chicagolobbyists.org/2012/01/12/chicago-aint-ready-for-procurement-reform/ f
ChicagoLobbyist.org, built by the OpenCityApps team of volunteer civic hackers out of Chicago designs an awesome kick-ass website to display lobbyist data. The team even worked with the Chief Data Officer to improve the data and improve the site. The site’s clean and does the job.
The city needed a way for lobbyist to electronically file their data and display it on the web. OpenCityApps already had 1/2 of that up and running. The team is staffed by pros, but their group is made up of volunteers. The problem is that the requirements to bid on the contract where too much for a volunteer group. The procurement rules made it so that only big shops could do it. No small elite teams need apply.
The 2nd example is fax machines. My particular office receives about 2 reams of paper worth of faxes from employers protesting unemployment claims. The volume of these faxes causes these faxes to break down often. This means we have to pay somebody to fix the fax machine. It would be cheaper in the long term to buy a bigger fax machine – but because that’s a big ticket item, the procurement rules cause us to just keep fixing the fax machine. I don’t have enough information to do that math, but my instinct is that it’s cost us more to fix the fax 12 times than to just buy a new one.
Now, the technology exists to take these protests and build a way to submit them directly into into our system. However, this would take a pretty big chunk of change to do. In the long term, this would make things much faster/simpler/better. I don’t think we’ll implement this anytime soon because it’s expensive in the short-term.
We have the technology, what we don’t have is the procurement rules in place to take advantage of it.
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