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From Health Care to College Apps, Computer Glitches Shouldn’t Distract From Bigger Goal

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239

The frustration level hit its height last week on the two fronts of health care and higher ed.  Since it’s unveiling, the Affordable Care Act’s  website has been an absolute nightmare. And even the folks at  were experiencing buggy website glitches where some schools like Georgia Tech moved back their early admission deadline to this week.

Common app has no excuse.

How can a website whose only excuse to exist is convenience suddenly become inconvenient?

Same with the government’s new health care site. It’s only reason for being is the digital ease.

The ACA’s web “glitches” are now officially “kinks,” according to President Obama’s Monday media event at the Rose Garden.  But the whole thing has given the president’s opponents a major talking point—even though a sick website is nothing compared to a sick health care system that will be better under the ACA.

The president said the site did have 20 million hits, that proves there’s a demand for affordable care. And it’s true, people want a better health care system, not a better website, and that’s what Obama concentrated on in his Monday remarks.

So far, some software experts have estimated it may take some 5 million lines of code to make the website do everything you expect it do like modern magic.

That shows you how ill-prepared the government was to go to market. Sort of like going to war with a rubber knife.  Could we have expected any other result with government protocols that force officials to choose the lowest bidder with the oldest technology?

This was clearly Plan B time, and the president had one ready.

Pick up the phone and talk to someone.

A call-center.


In this day of, people just expect a web solution. But for something like this, until the reinforcements come in from the Silicon Valley, some old-fashioned solutions should help.

The same is probably true with Common App.

Really, what was wrong with filling out a new app for each college?

It’s not a one size-fits all situation.  If it’s fair, applying to college shouldn’t be a cookie cutter approach.

Don’t you think we might have better applications and applicants, if each were prepared individually– with care.

Common App does allow for some variants, but I’d say that’s probably one of the reasons the ease of standardization fails. Homogenization of applicants? That’s practically anti-diversity.

I am no Luddite, but I know the wholesale embrace of technology can come back and bite us in the you-know-where.

And when it does, we should just relax. Count to 10. Then pick up a phone and do it the old-fashioned way. A paper app. For college or health care.

No need to be spoiled high tech babies.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (  Like him at or follow him on twitter @emilamok.

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