The title of this blog may be an oxymoron.
I am reminded of this issue because the State of California has just canceled a computer program for the judicial system that was to cost $25 million and was already overrun and nonfunctioning at $100 million. The same is true for the history of many computer programs in cities and police departments. One of my friends designed a computer program for a government agency and spent 10 years suing to get paid. Because the specs kept changing and the agency was never satisfied. It worked fine.
Of course I know that the military and NASA and a few other agencies get functioning computer systems. Sometimes, like the FBI and the IRS it is delivered 10 years late at 10 times the cost. Generally, if not always, the work is done outside the government.
My reason for bringing this up is simply to point out the reason government is so incompetent at dealing with incorporating computers into their processes.
Business is hierarchical and always goal oriented as well as solution oriented. Someone always has the final responsibility. For most industrial commerce the goal is reduction of costs. Problem solving is the daily function of business.
Government is organized to resolve conflict and find resolution among converging power groups. Quite different from commerce.
The implementation of a computer system in a government agency shouldn’t work and it doesn’t.
The problem arises not because the government cannot set goals, but because the government is incapable of having stable goals with a final responsible person to deal with. The government must inevitably adapt and change goals, measurements and specifications to the changing power forces within it.
Let's not expect the government to be capable of anything other than reconciliation and mediation of conflicting power bases.
It can’t and shouldn’t do business.