Worthless OSHA app from Federal Government costs $200,000+

By , ITworld |  Cloud Computing, Android, government

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OSHA

How much does it cost to make a phone app to tell local temperature and suggest how not to get heatstroke, such as drink water and avoid alcohol? Add in a converter to equate degrees with safety warnings. Surely $200,000 is a fair price, right?

Rich Jones of GUN.IO found the app he calls "a steamy pile of s**t" and started digging. Using MuckRock to file a Freedom of Information Act, Jones discovered the Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration paid $106,467 for the Android version he tested. The iPhone version cost $96,000, and a BlackBerry app that never got distributed cost an additional $40,000.

Jones couldn't get the source code at first, since that was held to be "trade secrets" in the Freedom of Information Act letter. Later the code turned up on the OSHA website. Could be the real secret is how to get $200,000+ for a bad to mediocre phone app. We should ask the developers, Eastern Research Group of Lexington, Massachusetts, now owned by the British company AEA Group.

Political jabs

Wasting money -- what the government does best. And silly leftwingers want to give them even more money and power.
theunreasticviewpoint on talkingpointsmemo.com

I remember when the IRS spent 4 Billion on a new computer system and had nothing to show for it. The joke I used for a week was "Hell, they could have paid me $2 Billion and still not had anything to show for it -- and saved half their money."
DanielBMarkham on news.ycombinator.com

This is why I am voting for Ron Paul.
Tom on gun.io

Maybe they should have created a competition for finished apps instead. If the app is as simple as it sounds (not sure what it actually does), maybe some high school kids would have entered a better version and raked in 5000$ as the first price.
Tichy on news.ycombinator.com

Business as usual

These guys use their contacts and influence to get these huge contracts. When all the top administration posts are run by the same group. They'll only give big contracts to their own type.
max odgen on gun.io

I work at Code for America, a nonprofit that takes nerds and pays them to write open source applications for US government. You have very clearly validated our 'market' here.
max odgen on gun.io

I worked in the computer industry (years ago) and there was never a shortage of people scamming or fleecing. Someone who can make a butt ugly non-working app for $200k is considered successful in the criminal circles.
Handy on talkingpointsmemo.com

Not to outrageous

It's arguable that the government should be doing this at all. But I certainly believe that if government should be doing anything, they should be making their work available to the general public. I don't think they got screwed - 200k for an app is not a giant rip-off. They might have been able to do it cheaper, but it's not totally out of line with the sort of crap industry does.
wisty on news.ycombinator.com

Look, either way it seems over priced but you are looking only at development cost. Before the devs wrote a single line of code there was someone who speced the app and someone else who did acceptance testing. The overheads are likely a large part of the app. Here, you make the classic mistake of a developer who thinks code is all there is to a product. That said, the product should not have been accepted given its quality.
Jwon2 on gun.io

It seems this guy doesn't account for "bureaucratic overhead" that is involved in dealing with any large client: You already mentioned the need for lots and lots of meetings and doing the translations, there is also writing up a proposal and some reports, drawing up contracts and sub-contracts, doing usability testing and ensuring compliance with applicable federal regulations.
rweba on news.ycombinator.com

To be fair, I've seen government contracts that were so mishandled from the government side - massive changes in requirements after the work is nearly done, 2 or 3 times - so it's unclear if the contractor made a killing or suffered through a job from hell.
Basil Forthrightly on talkingpointsmemo.com

$96k is still outrageous, but for work-for-hire it's off by a factor of 2-5 rather than a factor of 10.
feralchimp on news.ycombinator.com

Anyone got the handle on preventing government waste? Or is one person's government waste another person's vital program?

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