Monday, April 09, 2007

iGov ictQatar IT Forum

TOO MANY ACRONYMS! The Gulf Times (and probably every other paper) today announced there's going to be a meeting at the Ritz tomorrow to talk about developing government IT services so they can be accessed through the web. I could probably make some useful suggestions, if I were invited. But I'm not, and neither are you.

Why bother advertising a meeting if it's not open to the public? That's like me issuing a press release saying "Family meeting, 7.30, around the dinner table. We're going to talk about the state of the bathroom." Of course, Wednesday's papers will follow up the story with photos of Hessa al-Jaber shaking some guy's hand. There won't be any details of what was discussed - just a photo and a repeat of the purposes of the meeting. Grr.

Given that I'm not invited, here are my suggestions. The important ones are non-technical.

  1. Scatter the money around. Don't spend millions on a single project to do everything - it will fail, and all your money will have been wasted.

  2. All initial projects should be finished within three months. A two-year project will fail, and you will be two years behind schedule.

  3. After three months, see who's got something working - give them more money and more responsibility. Stop funding the projects that haven't achieved anything; look for new small projects instead.

  4. Replace the leaders of failed projects. Publicise the successful projects.

  5. Insist on compliance to internet standards. If someone is using an ActiveX control, Macromedia Flash, or non-validating HTML, take away their money. They don't understand the web, and eventually you will be embarrassed if people believe their solution is representative of the State of Qatar.

  6. Insist that people use a free database in their solutions. It saves on costly licenses for still-born projects, and the database code will be cleaner if programmers believe they need to swap from MySQL to Oracle at a later date.

  7. Apart from following internet standards, and using free databases, don't enforce any other standards. In particular, enforcing Microsoft products will halve your pool of talented programmers; enforcing project management and system analysis methodologies will double the bureaucratic overhead. Both of these will encourage failure.