Grand, government-level IT projects are bloody tricky beasts. You don’t have to look hard to find examples of ones that have gone over-budget and over-time. It’s never a good sign when a country cheaps out on a tech project.
And yet, one IT consultancy is bravely (and stupidly) trying to sub-contract a freelancer from People Per Hours to build a national e-ID system to be deployed across a yet-unnamed country.
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UK tech blog The Register unearthed the advert, titled: “URGENT!!! Delivery of a National e-ID System.” It states that it’ll collect both alphanumeric and biometric data, and assign a unique ID number and card to each citizen.
And yes. It really does start with “URGENT!!”
While the project brief didn’t disclose what country the system is for, it said that it would be for a population of four million people. That narrows down the list somewhat, and could include New Zealand, Liberia, Oman, and Moldova, amongst others.
Anything involving identification is tricky, largely because you’re building a product that is to be used by literally millions of people. It needs to be reliable, and above all, it needs to be secure. It’s a long-term thing that requires long-term commitment.
When the UK introduced ID cards, it was the culmination of a nearly three-year process, and was expected to cost £5.4 billion (roughly $10.5 billion at 2008’s exchange rates) over ten years.
The project, which was regarded as an expensive white elephant, was canceled by the incoming Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government just two years after it was rolled out.
I just don’t see how hiring a freelancer to build such a system (in six months, no less) is a good idea.
But then again, maybe I’m being a bit of a snob? There are plenty of examples of countries turning to established outsourcing giants like CSC, Crapita (sorry, I meant Capita), and CGI Group, only for it to blow up in their faces.
Given the disaster that was Healthcare.gov, and pretty much any NHS IT project, is it really so outlandish to turn to Internet freelancers?
If you want to apply for the gig, you can check out the listing here.