Seeing Through the
Social workers need a reliable and efficient state-wide computer system. They would like to be able to access the history of a family that has moved from county to county, to see what services they received previously, what helped and didnt help. They would like to be able to enter data once, and then have it printed out on the different forms requested by the department and the state. Is CWS/CMS that system? Can it be made reliable? That is the $64,000 question.
What disheartens Los Angeles emergency response supervisor Deborah Ramirez is that she sees the same problems that were fixed six months ago reoccurring. Every time they bring a new county on line or do major fixes, the system becomes unstable again. She believes that the problems may be in the computer hardware as well as the software. One computer technician stated that the computers they are using, 75 megahertz Pentiums, are just too slow to handle the volume of data, which is part of the reason for the systems frequent slow downs and crashes. They barely sell computers that slow anymore, she was told. She would like to have an independent computer analyst review the system.
Monterey child welfare worker Wren Atilano-Bradley agrees with Ramirez. She has been using the system for almost six months. This week she lost seven hours of work. Were starting to have the same problems as when we started. Even the SOS, our super users, are having problems they cant solve, and now when they call Boulder [the IBM help desk in Colorado, where the computer is housed], they just get the run around.
According to Atilano-Bradley, the IBM technicians
have gone from trying to solve problems to blaming the workers. Their
new buzzword is optimistic concurrency. Boulder claims an
optimistic concurrency occurs when two workers are working
on the same case at the same time and both try to save data, and the system
wont save. Boulder claims there is a one in a thousand chance this
would happen, but the problem has come up eight times in the last week.
We believed them until the last time, when no other computers were on.
When we told them that, they got flustered and admitted they didnt
know what was going on.