This morning I attended a talk by Casey West on "How Platforms Work" at the Australian Government Digital Transformation Office (DTO) in Canberra. Casey gave a good introductory overview of the underlying technology needed to provide computer applications (although he got a little bogged down on details, such as port assignments). As someone trained in computinging the age of mainframes, it is both reassuring and disconcerting to see the "app" age reinventing the techniques need for running large scale reliable applications.
It was interesting to see DTO's office. This is a cross between a government office and a computer startup company. The office looks like a neater version of an innovation center, with post-it notes on walls and white-boards covered in diagrams. There are also a lot of thirty-something males with beards and check shirts.
Have seen the DTO office, I am more comfortable with what they are trying to do. However, it needs to be kept in mind that government applications have to be built to a much higher standard of reliability and usability than commercial free "apps". This presents a challenge for DTO to balance the need to get products out quickly and ensure that government obligations are met.
An example of the difficulties for government applications is that they have to operate when under hacking attack, not just from amateurs, but from professional nation state sponsored cyber-warfare. Companies can invoke "force majeure" and say they could not provide a service due to circumstances beyond their control, but governments can't. This will be discussed next week at...
ps: Casey West is in Australia until 10 March.