Government is up to its neck in tech. From IRS computers calculating taxes to computerized parking meter systems all the way to modern weapons systems, government at every level is utterly tangled up in computing.
It's always easy to criticize government as being overly bureaucratic or adorned with enough red tape to make a million dresses for Lady Gaga. But the fact of the matter is that governments tend to make extremely good use of technology when it suits them -- such as spying on their own citizenry or developing missiles that can travel hundreds of miles and hit a shoebox -- and become abominations when it doesn't.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Paul Venezia also has an explanation of why politicians should never make laws about technology. | Ultimately, locking down the Internet won't work; just ask Barbra Streisand. | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Data Center newsletter to stay on top of the latest developments. ]
For an example of the latter, look no further than the state of voting machines in the United States. Yes, after years of outrage and legal challenges, there are still problems -- big ones.
Lapses persist everywhere, from systems that can be compromised by someone with an eighth-grade education and $26 to voting machines that helpfully hack themselves. Just about everyone who's ever used a voting machine that lacks a paper receipt gets the bitter joke: Without the paper trail, how can you have manual recounts? Heck, even elections in Venezuela have that.
Years continue to go by without any sort of controls, regulations, or reliable testing of electronic voting systems that are used by millions of Americans to cast their ballots. State governments have a much firmer grasp on how to interface with car computer systems to fail an inspection if ODB-II error codes are logged than they do with electronic voting.