So Rhode Island’s state government paid about a half-billion dollars for software to manage its various welfare programs, and now it’s having to “upgrade” to put bar codes on paper applications so it can properly track them:
“I have an idea,″ [Rep. Jason Knight, D-Barrington] said. “Put a box in each building and that’s where the scanned applications go…This is not difficult…Put a box in the corner.″
“Understood,″ Hawkins said, but “DHS [takes in] thousands of applications every month.” She said a technology upgrade “in the coming months″ will put a bar code on every document that is received by the department to ensure that every one “gets scanned to the right case and eliminate the errors.”
“We believe the technology system should solve this problem for us,” she said.
With a little work, perhaps Rhode Island can graduate to the latest technology of the 1970s.
Not to repeat what’s been written in this space before, but the problem, here, isn’t the technology so much as what the state is trying to use it for. Tracking all of the information necessary to determine, on an ongoing basis, the eligibility of everybody in the system for every welfare benefit requires a great deal of information.
It is within the competence of state government to set up agencies to process individual welfare programs. It is not within its competence to vacuum us all into its data base and get us on the dependency highway. And we should be relieved that that’s the case.