The US Government spends billions to maintain 50 year old technologies

In the technology sector, there are primarily three types of software users: The consumers, the enterprise sector and the Government sector. The consumers usually adopt the latest technologies, or are at least not far behind them, while the enterprises often rely on software a few years old for the fear of not breaking anything. However, once the organizations maintaining this software stop support, the enterprise sector too is brought up to date.

But the third sector, that of the Government, is an entirely different beast. It uses technologies decades old, and spends billions on maintaining this software.

As per a Government Accountability Report, there are several holes to poke when it comes to the Government’s implementation of technology. In several cases, they were found to be using and maintaining technologies over 50 years old. Lots of money and manpower is being spent to maintain these systems.

From assembly code to COBOL code to floppy disks  and more, venturing into agencies like the IRS is like taking a trip back in time.

Of course, those 50 year old systems are just a small subset of the Government’s problems with  being even reasonably up to date. There are several systems that are “just” a decade old. However, you can’t exactly fault the Government on this, because these systems, as archaic and complicated as they may be, they still work. And instead of undertaking the task of bringing thousands of programs up to date and risking the possibility of bugs, security holes and more, the Government is choosing to spend money in keeping these technologies alive.

The question is how long is this going to be practical, because as these technologies get older, they are going to be more and more difficult to maintain. Obviously, there aren’t many students who are going to opt for COBOL nowadays (if any), and that means that these agencies should start implementing plans to replace these antiquated technologies.

What do you think?


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