It should not have been surprising for the Alaska Department of Revenue when several thousand Alaskans inundated the website to apply for their Permanent Fund Dividend yet somehow nearly 16,000 people who logged on to apply for their annual PFD experienced glitches in the online application process.
Users had no problems filling out the application, but the electronic signature function was flawed and others were unable to visit the “Pick.Click.Give.” page which provides much-needed funds to the 500 nonprofits who benefit from the generosity of Alaskans willing to share their annual dividends.
While the scale is much smaller, the problem reminds us of the nightmare roll-out of HealthCare.gov, the federal health insurance marketplace which was supposed to connect citizens to insurance under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Millions of Americans attempted to use a website the federal government knew for three years needed to be built — but didn’t start until the year it was due to roll out. Those responsible for the website scrambled to get the IT infrastructure into place in time but didn’t spend enough time on quality control to make sure it worked. As a result the rollout of the largest nationwide change to the healthcare industry in decades was botched.
Alaskans have been filing for their annual PFD checks for 32 years and 83 percent of the 2013 applicants filed online. It’s a process that should be routine, streamlined and ready for heavy use at the beginning of the year, every year.
Word from the Department of Revenue is that most of the glitches have been fixed, but they should not have been there in the first place. Someone should have tested and retested the function of the site to make sure every part of the process worked — just as someone should have been responsible for making sure the rollout of HealthCare.gov was flawless.
Part of the responsibility of managing a multi-billion dollar fund should be to provide top-notch IT infrastructure to the people of the state whose resources are being exploited for the benefit of the nation.
Glitches do not inspire confidence. We hope that the states spends the time and money necessary next year to make sure the website is safe, secure and functioning for all Alaskans.