Fred Trotter writes about a very scary story out of Washington.
The custodian for the new VistA system, the open source software that's supposed to replace what the Veterans Administration is now using, will be a long-time Defense contractor with no ties to open source whatever.
This is important for two reasons:
- DoD is not as enthusiastic about open source as the VA.
- The DoD's health care software system, called AHLTA, sucks. It sucks because it's built on a contractor model, with proprietary software companies holding their own intellectual property close to the chest, refusing to cooperate until they're paid by everyone else around the table.
- Eventually, AHLTA and VistA are supposed to be merged, under the new open source process.
The contract winner here, The Informatics Applications Group (TIAG), is just one example. I only single them out because they won this particular contract -- there are literally thousands of such operators in Virginia and Maryland.
Their Web site is awfully pretty, with detailed bios of all their principals, and it's all gobbledygook. It's eye candy. It has no function other than to look nice. It was hugely expensive to build, and to create art for.
But it has a function. It tells the government these folks are serious. And it does get paid for, on the back end. The contracts TIAG signs have plenty of money to do all this Web site nonsense. In the end, you paid for this Web site, which is why I feel no guilt in showing off this picture of one of TIAG's principals.
My guess is TIAG won because DoD and VA had a cat fight over whose contractors would win the gig, DoD won the turf fight, but they agreed in the process not to hand it out to one of their "usual suspects" who might tilt everything in their own proprietary direction. Instead, they went with TIAG, which is too small to go after the big IT contracts but tied-in enough with the bureaucratic players to be trusted by both the contractors and DoD.
Fair enough. But TIAG knows nothing about open source. You'll pay for their education. They paid a ton of money out getting this contract. You'll pay for that. You'll pay for the Web site, too. And at the end of the day we have no idea whether they will be fair to the open source process, or whether they'll be slowly and steadily transforming it into a replica of what AHTLA was.
All we can do is hope for the best.