A Call for an Open Source CoverOregon.com
This is a copy of an open letter written to the Governor of Oregon regarding the Oregon health exchange. (PDF)
Dear Mr. Kitzhaber,
In light of the recent resignation of the Oregon Health Authority director, Bruce Goldberg and the previous resignation of Cover Oregon director, Rocky King, I feel that I need to speak up.
The goal of launching a website that provides a health care exchange for a state with a total population of 3.8 million people is not overly ambitious and you are right to be angry and disappointed with the results to date. You have indicated, and other agree, that Oracle and the implementation team are to blame for the launch failure. Fundamentally, the failure lies in the dated approach using "Enterprise Ready" software that is difficult to customize and expensive to license. Open source technology is where businesses are heading today and perhaps our state government should follow their lead. It is my fervent belief that if Oregon had used open source technology, the Cover Oregon launch would have been delivered on time at a fraction of the cost.
This perspective is not based on hearsay or on a lack of experience with the complexity of large public projects. Rather, it is backed by Metal Toad’s own personal experience with delivering complex, high-traffic web applications for entities like Sony Pictures Television and the Emmys. With the Emmys, we’ve handled traffic of 2.4 million page views over a span of four hours during their primetime event. Was it challenging to deliver on a drop-dead deadline with a huge spike in traffic? Absolutely. Was there any need for a closed-source technology solution? Not at all. All of the code, databases and even the servers themselves were open source solutions that didn’t cost a dime in licensing.
Governor, like you, the taxpayers and the federal government are clearly disappointed and angry as well. By all accounts Oregon had the worst health care site launch in the states. Including or ignoring licensing cost, we, the citizens of the state of Oregon, paid too much for a website that has failed to deliver even months after the required deadline. By my estimate, my company - or any of a number of other qualified open source savvy companies in the state of Oregon - could have delivered a working healthcare website by the deadline for $10 million dollars or less. That's less than a 10th of what has been spent to-date, and less than what is even currently in dispute with Oracle.
Type is cheap, so I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. With that in mind I am putting an open offer out there: Metal Toad could build a timely new open source based version of CoverOregon that functions properly for a fixed cost of $10 million dollars, or I would refund every cent of it to the Oregon tax payer. My perspective is not a singular one. I believe Oracle is a dated system that will not be able to deliver what Oregon’s citizens require. Let's move forward together on a modern platform flexible enough to accommodate the state’s needs. Governor, I am disappointed and angry about how technology has been selected in this state, and I challenge you to make a change.