In the software development world there is a term for poorly written code: “code smell.” In industry parlance, that means code that was poorly written, sloppy, and not designed to “scale” or support a large number of concurrent users. Healthcare.gov is the victim of “code smell.”
It should be clear that the implementation of this site offers no commentary on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) itself. The commentary pertains only to the contractor who built the site. The back-end code is of course hidden from the casual user so it’s not possible to comment on that implementation.
Though the ideas and principles behind the Affordable Care Act remain solid, it appears that the contractor who was chosen to build the site, Experian PLC, was anything but solid. According to the Wall Street Journal “Software, Design Defects Cripple Health-Care Website,” the contractor who built the site was indeed Experian PLC.
It is also well known that Experian PLC is a company that now relies almost exclusively on offshore developers, most likely from India. Most often American companies such as Experian PLC will then in turn subcontract this sort of work to Indian firms such as Tata and Cognizant. Both of these companies are infamous in the United States for the atrocious work their developers produce.
Another well-known fact among experienced developers in the United States is the mythical quality of offshore development teams. Though management always likes to claim that offshore teams are of comparable quality to domestic teams, that is not the case at all.
In fact, the adage of “you get what you pay for” could not be more true in this case. In an era when fully 50 percent of entry-level software development jobs in the United States are taken by H-1B workers — most generally from India — we have in the debacle that is the implementation of the HeathCare.gov website another example of why domestic — American educated and trained — resources should be preferred. This stands as another reason why the fallacy of investing in H-1B visas and tripling their numbers [as the immigration bill stuck in the U.S. House of Representatives does] is an unwise course. The more American companies such as Experian PLC rely on offshore teams, the more they will find their quality decreasing and their customers abandoning them.
HeathCare.gov will be rewritten domestically and the Affordable Care Act will prove a major success in the end. But this disaster courtesy of Experian PLC and most probably Tata or Cognizant should act as yet another nail in the coffin of offshoring.
“Software, Design Defects Cripple Health-Care Website”
“Experian PLC Uses Offshore Indian Resources such as Tata and Cognizant”
edited by tw