Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Washed Up CIO

Tracy Mitrano, the Director of IT policy and Institute for Computer Policy and Law at Cornell University applauded Oxford University's decision to turn off Google Docs.

Not long ago, the IT Department turned off Facebook Access for Maryland's state delegates' offices.

The problem for Mitrano alike CIOs are 1) lack of technical insights; 2) lack of understanding of role of IT departments.

Mitranos do not understand they can't turn off the Internet. From the born of computers, they are not perfect. Programmers and users live with known weaknesses and shortcomings of computer systems.

The mission of IT department is to support and facilitate the workflow of production groups. In the case of Mitrano, her job is created to help students and faculty at Cornell University to access, exchange and disseminate ideas. Instead, she acted like a small town cop, who is obsessed with the power to stop a car at her own discretion.

Having known what was purported as the risks of using service such as Google Docs, a CIO should not rush to the easy solution. Mitrano was shocked to read about the listed 'issues' with Google Docs, an informed reader would be amazed to vision her reaction if she were told of Windows operating system's thousands of known and documents bugs. As a matter of fact, Windows is an exemplary well maintained system thanks to Microsoft's army of developers. Any major software products including key server products are running with thousands of known bugs and often known security vulnerabilities. Google has the resource to patch any obvious ones. A qualified CIO should work with Google to help the users she is supposed to serve, instead of enjoy the sensation of blocking their access to key software.

Instead of shutting down Google Docs, a qualified CIO should ask questions and find out the usage patterns of her users. She should educate and warn users of potential risks. She should identify the technical intricacies and work out an in-house temporary patch before the vendor's next service release.

It's a pity that such a position is filled with people who has no technical background, no service experience, but only big mouth agenda and (even worse) genuine fear of technology because of lack of technical depth. It's a disservice to the academic community and the University.

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