“In government, there are some things that private companies do that you can’t do — free meals for employees or an on-site executive chef, for example — which are valued fringe benefits at a lot of leading tech companies. Those are not things that government is really able to do. You can imagine the politics of trying to justify any of those things.”
— Ed Felten, computer science professor at Princeton and former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission, on the difficulty of attracting top computer programmers to work for the government as opposed to a tech company with perks and less red tape.
With the spotlight on the problem-plagued rollout of the new federal health insurance exchange, Felten tells the Washington Post that one difference between that website and those created by others is that startups usually release a simple product and improve it over time. ”That’s difficult to do in government, and it’s not what happened with HealthCare.gov, which was meant to start operating immediately at full scale and with full features,” he said.
The United States spent at least $394 million to contract out work on the website, which opened Oct. 1, according to the Associated Press.
President Obama acknowledged the mess Monday, saying “there’s no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow,” and vowing a “tech surge” to try to fix the problems.
Photo: Screen grab of the Healthcare.gov website, the federal health care exchange, whose launch has been marred by problems.