Cortney O'Brien

Walk into some government offices, and you might think it’s the 1980s again.

The Federal Register is the daily journal of the US government, posting everything from laws and executive orders to proposed rule changes for the public to see. How they acquire this information, however, would make you think that time is frozen in this agency’s headquarters.

Jada Smith at The New York Times has the unfortunate news:

The Federal Register employees who take in the information for publication from across the government still receive some of it on the 3.5-inch plastic storage squares that have become all but obsolete in the United States.

Um, wow. I remember when my family and I had floppy disks...I think we sold them at a garage sale along with my Furbies.

Now, laughably, it seems like government employees may have been our first customers. The New York Times goes on to explain that some agencies have yet to upgrade to a secure email system because the move is too expensive, leaving critics pointing to the other technological debacle that is healthcare.gov.

Meanwhile, experts say that an administration that prided itself on its technological savvy has a long way to go in updating the computer technology of the federal government. HealthCare.gov and the floppy disks of The Federal Register, they say, are but two recent examples of a government years behind the private sector in digital innovation.

Hey, at least the president can tweet.

A Brookings Institution study from June 2009 revealed just how far behind the government is from the private sector in regards to technology, with private companies pulling ahead in just about every area. In a comparison of their overall technology innovation ratings, corporations earned an average of 65, while the Federal Government earned a mere 51. What’s more, private companies well outpaced the government in its offering of electronic services. In regards to providing audio clips alone, the government was behind by nearly 30 percent.

I like the advice the Brookings researchers offer at the end of the study:

“The public sector could become more innovative and entrepreneurial if it could involve citizens further in key decisions.”

Ditch the floppy disks, then we’ll talk.


Cortney O'Brien

Cortney O'Brien is a Townhall web editor. Follow her on Twitter @obrienc2.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography