Everyone worldwide believes that the United States government function using the best technology they have in the country. But this isn’t entirely the case. It’s been reported that a couple of essential departments in the US government are still running on thirty-year-old legacy systems. Some of these legacy systems don’t even have updates anymore, and some are running entirely on technical intuition from their programmers.
It’s shocking to think that we rely so much on the government when they can’t seem to rely on the things they work with. As a layperson who enjoys the comfort technology has given us at home and work, you’ll be surprised to see that the government is just currently got into using the latest version of Office 365 email backup solution in their systems while many companies have had it for many years.
The discrepancy between the technology used by the commercial sector and the government sector is huge. That’s how outdated our government systems are and how it is becoming a problem for them to keep up. But first, let us explore the various reasons why this is happening.
Legacy systems are the kind of systems that still use old methods and applications to function properly. They are considered to be ‘outdated’ systems but still function properly despite being old. Having legacy systems have various advantages to its users, the first of which is its familiarity.
Many people who have used legacy systems for quite some time are familiar with the intricate mechanics that make it work. This familiarity can translate to efficiency for some folks. It can also mean navigating the system much smoothly and spending less time trying to understand it.
The government believes in this principle of familiarity. Considering that many government workers are quite old, they don’t mind the old systems since they won’t have to dedicate a certain amount of time to learn much newer systems. Legacy systems and their familiarity make them function the same way they did many years ago. There’s nothing wrong with that, but everyone knows that this is the modern age and they can do better. Another advantage to legacy systems is their continuity.
People who have been working for the government have been doing it for many years, and updating the systems to much newer ones means disrupting that continuity in the process. It can also damage the continuity of some stored confidential files in the government, leading to leaks and other disastrous breaches. This is the main reason why the government doesn’t want to update some of its systems. However, the nature of legacy systems makes them already vulnerable to cyber attacks. And the years have shown that the government use’s legacy systems are no longer as efficient as before.
Time for an update?
Some government systems have been around for more than 50 years. It’s well beyond its time, and the security risk for these departments is considered high. It won’t be a data breach when the system itself fails. It’s a miracle how some of these systems are still working up to this day. That shows the power of human ingenuity when faced with desperate odds. Many of these departments cling to the old systems because of fear that the transition will lead to leakage of files or completely losing them forever. This is an authentic fear, but one needs to be shaken away if we want to progress. It’s high time that we get an update.
A Multi-billion Dollar Update
The US Government Accountability Office has a plan set to modernize these systems. It’s a multi-billion-dollar plan that will take years to accomplish. It’s one way to address the problem.
This is a structural overhaul of what has defined various departments for many years. It will be a tough undertaking but one that needs to be done if we want our files to be safe under government hands.
The government must be held accountable for the lack of initiative on its part. Communities and individuals rely on them for daily functions, and little did we know that their systems can fail at any time. What would you do then? This accountability will ensure that such legacy systems won’t plague our future. Sure it’s good to have them for a few years, but for fifty years? It’s time we put the government accountable for their outdated systems. We deserve so much more.
One way to do this is through civilian auditing. We should at least have the chance to audit our own government and see what they use to run their systems. We shouldn’t need a report from the GAO. We should be able to see for ourselves. Additionally, the government should change its system every five years or so. It spends billions on IT, but it seems that it all goes into maintaining an old system that’s already compromised. That’s just inefficient.
Legacy systems are good to use five years after it’s time. Many people still use Windows XP simply because it’s easier to use than the latest Windows 10. But Windows XP is not from fifty years ago. It’s only recently that it’s considered it’s outdated. The government has been using systems for so long ago that we don’t even know what programming language it uses. It’s time they are held accountable for this oversight and fix it in the next few years to come.