INSIGHT-Health site woes show Washington misses out on cutting edge tech

Tue Nov 19, 2013 1:00am EST
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By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON Nov 19 (Reuters) - One part of the Obama administration's technically flawed website is actually working as promised. Unfortunately, the company that built it does not intend to seek more government business.

Working out of a garage a few blocks north of the White House, a 12-person software shop called Development Seed built a customer interface praised for its elegance and stability, a bright spot in the rollout of a website that has been an embarrassment for President Barack Obama.

But chief executive Eric Gundersen said his company will not seek another slice of the $82 billion the U.S. government will spend on technology this year because of the paperwork and regulatory hurdles.

"We don't have proposal writers and lawyers. We have developers," Gundersen said.

The technical problems since the Oct. 1 debut of the website have cast a harsh light on the federal government's tangled procurement process, a system that favors incumbents with long track records but leaves little room for innovation.

As a result, the government struggles to deliver the sophisticated digital services that tech-savvy consumers have come to expect.

Obama has apologized repeatedly for the performance of the website that is central to his healthcare overhaul. But he and other officials also have pointed fingers at the project's contractors, who have been paid at least $174 million for their work so far. Contractors say the administration is ultimately to blame.

The site has been plagued by timeouts, errors and slow responses, although an emergency effort to get the site running smoothly for most visitors has resulted in some improvements.   Continued...