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Communications of the ACM


Center Wheel For Success

Center Wheel for Success, illustration

Credit: Iwona Usakiewicz / Andrij Borys Associates

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When I first read the claim that, the website initiated by the Affordable Care Act, had cost $500 million to create,4 I did not believe the number. There is no way to make a website cost that much. But the actual number seems not to be an order-of-magnitude lower, and as I understand the reports, the website does not have much to show for the high cost in term of performance, features, or quality in general.

This is hardly a unique experience in the IT world. In fact, it seems more the rule than the exception.

Here in Denmark we are in no way immune: POLSAG, a new case-management system for the Danish police force, was scrapped after running up a tab of $100 million and having nothing usable to show for it. We are quick to dismiss these types of failures as politicians asking for the wrong systems and incompetent and/or greedy companies being happy to oblige. While that may be part of the explanation, it is hardly sufficient.


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