06 October 2016

The trouble with transparency - CADO version #nlpoli

"How do you deal with a government computer system that is hopelessly out of date it wants you to 'update' your Internet browser to a version that is actually three version older than the one you are using?"

That would be the online search for the government registry of deeds, companies, and lobbyists.  The thing was already ancient in 2009 when SRBP first wrote about it. The thing was nine years old then. These days it is around 16 years old and is still chugging along.

Someone else took a poke at the database by asking for an electronic copy of the record through the access to information law. In addition to requesting the data,  the person offered an observation that the database wasn't truly access as required under the access law because the software was so old:  "I am of the opinion that these records are not truly available to the public. Currently a user must access this database online using Internet Explorer 7, which is no longer supported by Microsoft, and leaves the end user vulnerable to malware spyware. I doubt Ministers would be permitted to use IE7 at Confederation Building due to the threat of digital exploits. The CADO system built by x-wave is incredibly outdated."
Okay, so the person making the request was being argumentative.  The official reply didn't but said it was available online.

The reply is passive aggressive in a classic government way but there are a few things worth noting here.

First, the fact that the software is so old is symptomatic of a government-wide attitude about customer service and accessibility of information that needs to be changed desperately. Whoever requested the information has a point. Government customers are not well served by this old software and , frankly, the cost of the change would pay itself back over time in a few ways.

Second,  government has other data that they could provide to the public readily online, at a lower cost than anything they are doing currently.

Third, this access request should have been accompanied by the data, as requested.  Even if the database the online search is drawn from contains much more information,  the department should have been able to pull out the public data and make it available.  More and more government organizations are doing just that every day as part of the daily updates and changes to existing online searches.  You don't even have to make a request.  They just offer the file for you to download, if you want it.

Transparency doesn't start with actions.  You have to make a change in people's heads first.