USA Government Legacy systems are suffering from Corona virus

April 22, 2020

The Coronavirus holds our entire world in a tight grip. Many businesses have shut down, while hundreds of thousands of people are directly affected by the virus, leaving millions of people to suffer the impact of the economic crisis caused by the lock-down.

As a result, many people need to claim insurance and government benefits. Since social distancing is still required, all applications must be made online, with countless disastrous effects.

Most government still have their vital systems running on a mainframe. These systems are not capable of handling the enormous workload pressure that Covid19 puts on them.

Below are some examples of how US governments sound the alarm as they struggle to keep their legacy system up and running during these challenging times.

The I.T. systems of unemployment insurance and other social safety net organizations all around The United States are under high pressure.

The U.S. Labor Department last week reported a record 3.28 million new unemployment claims in the week ending March 21, as businesses nationwide shuttered their operations. The result is an unprecedented stress test of the states’ unemployment eligibility systems, many of which are built on decades-old technology that’s now buckling under the increased traffic.

A nationwide problem

In a video broadcast, New Jersey’s governor put out an urgent call for legacy systems programmers. He said,

“Given the legacy systems, we should add a page [to their online call for health professionals] for COBOL computer skills because that’s what we’re dealing with.” Gov. Phil Murphy said April 4.”

Florida’s unemployment system crashed under the weight of hundreds of thousands of applications. The state initially urged applicants to use an out-of-support version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser before switching to paper applications.

A fire getting out of hand

The age and legacy codebase of government systems are not the only factor when it comes to failure and overload. It is increasingly the case that the shortage of skilled COBOL developers often contributes to the fact that many legacy systems are not sufficiently maintained and are therefore extra vulnerable. The sparsely available skills are used to keep the system running and extinguish fires wherever possible becomes now more compromised as the arrival of Covid19 has caused a fire that is difficult to extinguish and is getting way out of hand.

Legacy modernization pays off quickly

Are all governments in trouble? A lot are, but there are a few that are doing quite well.

The success that the city government of Los Angeles has found in smoothly transitioning thousands of city staff to a remote-working platform has positioned the city as one of the technological leaders to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

LA’s chief information officer, Ted Ross, told STATESCOOP that IT leaders in other jurisdictions wanted to know more about what the city’s Information Technology Agency did to quickly move more than 10,000 city staff to a secure, cloud-based platform on such short notice. Ross shared how internal conversations started after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began warning localities in February.

In a Podcast, Ross tells listeners how his team reviewed a range of options the city could face should it need to stand up a remote-working platform.  It soon did, with success, by first putting a dozen workers online remotely on March 13 before eventual onboarding the more than 11,600 employees who use it today.

Ross largely credits success to the groundwork the city laid in recent years modernizing the IT environment and improving its digital infrastructure and tools.

“Where we are today is dramatically different than where we were five years ago,” he says. “And when it comes to agility and tackling different kinds of challenges that come your way when you have to pivot in a pandemic situation, I am extremely happy in the investments we’ve been making available in the last five years.”

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