Flutterby™! : Systemic flaws and government spending

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Systemic flaws and government spending

2011-11-28 15:54:23.910591+00 by Dan Lyke 0 comments

RC3: Why do good people build bad applications? is a look at Gun.io: The Government's $200,000 Useless Android Application.

I'm going to go off in a different direction than either Rafe or Rich Jones (respectively) did. Yesterday, a Facebook ad popped up asking me to take a survey on an Institute of Museum and Library Services (.gov) "Proposed Framework for Digitally Inclusive Communities". The survey asked me to read the Building Digitally Inclusive Communities brochure, and, if I were "particularly interested in this subject", the Final Report.

Both documents completely ignore the real issues behind the "digital divide", they're the usual cargo cult "if we make broadband cheap enough that everyone can have it" thinking. The whole thing reeks of thinking that since rich families have more books than poor families, we can eradicate poverty by throwing books through windows in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The real question isn't whether a hundred or two hundred K is a reasonable price for a simple Android app, Rich Jones's "6 hours at the maximum" ignores that there are costs involved in design decisions and numerous other complexities, or whether the code is cribbed from buggy example code. I think it isn't even whether this would be better done as a web page or just a flyer.

I'm not even sure that the question revolves around the horrendous contracting procedures whereby you have layers of shell companies whose sole job it is to make sure that a set of contractor requirements paperwork is filled out, take a substantial cut, and farm the project out to the next layer down. Where by the time you get to the people who actually have the skills to do the work you've gone through 3 layers of "management" who've taken a skim and added "input".

The real question is: What is the reward structure where the mid-level bureaucrat who commissioned this project felt there was career enhancement in making an Android (and iPhone and Blackberry) app for something that's of questionable value to anyone. Because there's a lot of this crap out there, a whole lot of "let's take the facile view of the problem and throw some money at it", and whether that's "Intelligent Transportation", the "Digital Divide", or "we need an App", it's solving the easy problems while ignoring the hard ones.

We need to figure out that systemic dysfunction and fix it.

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