TCDC IT Hole Deepens
Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 3:00PM
Bill Barclay

It is remarkable that TCDC’s main software supplier – Guru Digital, won a top award at the  Local Government Information Awards on Tuesday for the Intranet software it developed at the request of TCDC’s Ben Day. This software has apparently been widely adopted elsewhere – hopefully with greater success than at TCDC where staff have long complained about it.

Well, that is the penalty of being first in the field – many is the company and organisation that has paid the price of being in the front rank of software development – I myself have learnt this lesson on several occasions being a serial pioneer by nature, at considerable cost to the organisations with which I was associated in the mid-seventies, and later. “Off the shelf” rapidly became my mantra, and I have never deviated.

What concerns me is that the same company – Guru Digital, designed and implemented the webpage program on which TCDC proudly displays itself to the World. What a pity that the software has proved totally inadequate in regard to its document handling capabilities’. Guru Digital’s Sean Cuttriss assures me that his program is not responsible, and nor did it provide the truely inefficient search engine that consistently fails to produce required information on the same software. Heaven only knows how the entire site was cobbled together – my queries have only ever met with exasperated gasps, rather confused explanations, and assurances that “help is on the way”.  

Accessing agendas for Council and Board meetings – one would have thought a rather fundamental requirement for any council, has proved an intermittently impossible task for over three years. For some reason, nobody appears able to correct, or apply patches that can overcome this situation.

The final insult came on Friday (yesterday) when access to the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting was totally denied. This followed several weeks of only being able to access  PDF Read Only documents – this has the effect of preventing copying, or extracting blocks of data or information for inclusion in posts, or articles. This makes mistakes inevitable as information is in effect hand copied from the PDF’s. Staff are well aware of this, and I had this very comforting reply from Communications Manager Laurna White to a complaint I made when I was unable to access the agenda for the 5 May TCB meeting:

“Following an internal audit of our IT systems we reviewed some external access settings of some of our software programmes. Part of the audit was to make sure the external security settings were robust and secure. This has meant we're temporarily having to use PDF files for the public to view, until we are satisfied that our online system is safe.

We've almost finished doing the fixes so we can revert back to our searchable online electronic system.

Bill, I totally understand your frustration and understand our legal obligation to make these documents available to the public, That's why as an interim fix PDF's have been the solution while or priority has been ensuring that our IT systems are secure.  

We expect agendas to be back up and running by the end of today.  I can contact you to let you know when this is done and in the meantime if you need anything specific always feel free to get in touch with me and I will arrange.”

That seems fairly clear, but it was a chimera – it is not Laurna’s job to get the system working properly – she has to rely on what she is told, and must be as exasperated as I.

Katina Conomos next took over responsibility for dealing with me last evening (after I had indicated that I was preparing a submission to the Ombudsman on the matter!) and sent the following in relation my latest complaint:

"Thanks for bringing this to our attention and we do apologise for the frustration that you have expressed. 

When the order paper was loaded and tested this afternoon it was working fine and we were back to the linked order papers, rather than PDFs, but we are obviously still having problems.  Our team are now aware of it and will conduct further tests.

In the meantime, so that you can access this over the weekend, I'm sending you now via wetransfer the order paper.  It will come through as a PDF, plus there are two reserve management plans as PDFs.  The Code of Compliance is on the agenda and this is a large document which is only available as a hard copy and can be viewed in our offices/libraries.

If you experience difficulties with the wetransfer service please give me a call on the mobile and I can make another arrangement for you.  0226579868

Again, our apologies."

Wonderful, except that I have no clue in regard to “Wetransfer” which I gather is a zip program that reduces large files to a manageable packet. As I have informed Katina, my Microsoft Windows 7 O/S tells me that it cannot handle it. So we are back where we started. I guess I will just have to call by the Council on Monday and pick up a hard copy – back to the 20th C. 



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