Employees of the Norwegian Wealthfare Agency (NAV) complain about how their systems are outdated. Some must even "learn DOS commands", which we know is the umbrella term for black windows with white text where you must actually use the keyboard.
NAV is a "recently" established cooperation between local and state government bodies. Some of the IT resources are owned by the municipalities, while others are owned by the national government, and there is little information being passed between these as a result of content rights and personal data protection directives. Setting up a NAV office requires some planning to enforce all the information flow/blocking policies. Even copy/paste is disabled across the platforms, so you can't copy information between the municipal and the national systems.
And this is where the pain begins.
As each municipality runs their own systems, NAV must attempt to integrate all of them into the big conglomerate. But neither state nor NAV has the authority to override what is installed at the local municipalities as long as it conforms to certain integration standards. Because if national authorities dictated a shift of technology, then national authorities would be liable to pay the bill. In the short run, the cost of integration seems to be smaller than the cost of conversion. By publishing the integration interface, much of the integration cost is now pushed over to the municipalities as part of their annual software license fees.
The cost of convertion, as such, is what we my refer to as "the cost of exit." As each system has an entry and a maintainance cost, there is also an exit cost. What does it cost to change system? And what system should be our standard? After all, setting a national standard would kill the business of all the other tailored government system developers. Some commercial actor would be able to monopolize. So how do we get out of this?
In 2006, the Swedish police turned to an open source platform and hired its own software developers to build their own mySQL and JBoss based information system. From this, they gained tailored software, a flexible system that can quickly be altered to reflect the needs of the police, full ownership of how the system works with their own data - and economically? The project pays far more than the investment in software developers. Reduced licensing and consulting costs equals approximately 400 fully equiped police cars per year.
A similar approach may be used in other government bodies, where specific tasks have been defined. This is what you do, let's all do it on this one system which we all own. If a law changes, we can change our own software - or pay huge sums to 4-5 different software companies to modify their software for the new law.
And one could take this a step further by setting a national standard for ESB - or would that be a GSB (Government Service Bus)?
Consultants in Public Administration: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5