The debacle over the healthcare.gov website has brought to light the significant problems with how government technology is currently built and its need for reform.
The New York Times recently posted two editorials, Why the Government Never Gets Tech Right and Getting Government Technology Right Interestingly, both point to the same solution: we need to rethink the way in which we procure and deliver software. The good news is the solution already exists. For improved performance, government software should be developed in incremental steps, tested repeatedly along the way and released in short cycles. This is the way of agile software development.
Roger Baker, a former government CIO, recently shared how the Department of Veterans Affairs successfully delivered the New GI Bill using the agile methodology. After deploying this large-scale system, the VA now plans to adopt agile for a number of other critical builds as well.
On a local government level, CivicActions successfully used agile development with the City and County of San Francisco. EatFresh.org, a project of the Human Services Agency, is a resource for assisting CalFresh (SNAP) eligible individuals and families in shifting behaviors around healthy eating and easy access to public benefits like Food Stamps, WIC and the School Lunch Program.
It is nearly certain that an ever-increasing number of citizens will be using the web as their primary access to government services. Now more than ever, as government agencies operate with limited budgets, they must seek new ways to lower costs while still delivering mission-critical functionality. These agencies should be quick to adopt the methodologies which are driving success and already become standard in the private sector.
Aaron Pava, co-founder of CivicActions, is an Internet Strategist committed to social empowerment through innovative and pioneering technologies. Aaron heads the professional development group and serves as business developer and client engagement manager.