Sir Ian Taylor’s letter to the PM shows he is understandably less than impressed with the government’s technology:
. . .I am not sure whether it was his office that provided you with the official response to the inevitable questions that were asked about how a site that had almost two years to be readied for its reopening, crashed within seconds.
Wherever it came from, the answer you were provided with was not great.
Your exact words were: – “We had anticipated that this may potentially be an issue – we just ask people to be patient.”
How were we meant to interpret that from someone who has the full backing of the entire government civil service behind them – “Sorry but this is your fault. You shouldn’t have logged on when we said you could. You should have known it would crash; we did!”
If the problem was anticipated why wasn’t it fixed before the site went live?
Why didn’t the people designing the system make sure there would be no problems?
Such incompetence in the private sector wouldn’t be tolerated, why is it in the public sector?
The missteps on the technology front, as far as the Covid response has been concerned, are becoming too numerous to count, but here are some to consider as your advisers continue to turn down offers of help.
An MIQ booking system that meant that someone who wanted to go to a cricket match in Australia has the same chance of getting a spot as someone who hadn’t seen their family for two years! An MIQ system that people with money could pay someone else hundreds of dollars to jump the queue for them. An MIQ system that came up with a Virtual Lobby that allowed you to make up as many passports as you liked because it wasn’t actually linked to the passport database.
A Vaccine Passport system that allows people to download a pdf that can be altered using standard editing software. A Vaccine Passport system that does not require a photograph to confirm you are the person holding the passport to help make the job of overstretched staff at vaccine mandated venues easier.
And now, the acknowledgement from our PM that you are happy for them to launch sites that they expect to crash. Really! This is our money you are spending – where is the accountability?
I don’t profess to be an expert on many things, but I think I have earned the right to have a voice when it comes to technology. We have built and launched a number of websites over the years. One of the latest was an interactive golfing platform called Tourcast which launched flawlessly with hundreds of thousands of simultaneous users accessing video, real time 3D graphics and data, for any player, on any hole, for every shot in a golf tournament.
When we launched it, to a global audience, we did not “anticipate” that it would crash. Our client did not “anticipate” that it would crash, and our users definitely did not “anticipate” that it would crash. Nor did we ‘anticipate’ that it would win an Emmy Award – but it did.
With the government site that crashed on Wednesday we are talking about a reported user base of 15,000 people accessing a site that you had two years to get ready!
This from the Ministry that continues to turn down genuine offers of help from businesses that are becoming increasingly frustrated by the “thanks – but no thanks” responses we get from your advisers. . .
Is it control freakery or a special kind of stupid that prevents people in the MInistry from knowing what they don’t know and seeking help from people who know much more?
Whatever it is, it’s not confined to technology.
And on a separate – “thanks but no thanks” note, were you aware that on July 10th 2020, in reply to an offer from the CEO of a US-based medical company (who has been coming to New Zealand for over 20 years) to discuss an FDA EUA approved, PCR equivalent, 98 per cent accurate, on the spot, Covid molecular test that could be self-administered and took just 30 minutes to provide a result, Dr Bloomfield’s team sent this response:
“I thank you for your offer of assistance to the New Zealand Covid-19 response. We are currently examining a large number of testing methods and protocols to determine their reliability and appropriateness. We are not seeking further tests or testing methods at this time.”
We will never know what was meant by “a large number of testing methods” because that level of information is not forthcoming from the MoH. What we do know is that Dr Bloomfield’s decision to commit to one, logistically top-heavy, nasopharyngeal test that now has people waiting for days to get a result, has meant that we have one of the least effective testing regimes in the world.
The test his team declined to even discuss has now been trialled and is being used with great success in Singapore, Canada, Israel, Taiwan, and the United States, where President Biden has just acknowledged the importance of testing by announcing that no one will be able to enter the US who hasn’t had a negative result within one day before boarding their flight.
I almost missed my flight to LA because it took three days to get my official test result, so getting to the US from New Zealand just got harder because your officials still believe they don’t need our help.
In less than two weeks, the Aucklanders who are double vaccinated or have had a negative Covid test within 72 hours will be free to travel throughout the country again.
The risk of at least some of them bringing the disease with them would be much, much lower if all of them had to have a negative test just 30 minutes before travelling.
If the politicians and the bureaucrats had listened to the people who know more than them and accepted their help this would have been possible.
But they didn’t.
Last summer they were congratulating themselves and telling us how lucky we were to be enjoying a Covid-free summer.
Had they listened to the experts congratulations might have been in order for another Covid-free summer.
But they didn’t listen and it won’t be Covid-free.