Posted: 10:36 am on 10th February 2015

embarrassedThere might be some red faces around the federal Health Department at the moment.

WasteWatch has unearthed a cryptic little contract, worth just over $11,000 of your money, for what could be a pretty costly moment of absent-mindedness.

See, the contract is for “EDW Forgot Password Reset Functionality.”

An EDW is an ‘enterprise data warehouse.’ They are big databases that companies and governments use to store all the information they’ve gathered from all their different transactions. They then analyse all this disparate information to see if they can pick up any useful patterns.

All of which is fantastic, and can reveal counter-intuitive behaviours in consumers, or patients, and improve that rarest of gems: evidence-based policy-making.

But it kind of requires you to know what the password to the database is.

Anybody who has ever been locked out of their email account, or their apartment building, or their online banking site, knows the perils of the modern fascination with passwords.

It seems like this modern plague has struck again.

What exactly happened isn’t quite clear from the contract description, but one of WasteWatch’s techie friends suggests that possibly the Health Department forgot its master password, and needed someone to come in and reset it without wiping the database, or maybe that the Health Department bought a software program that didn’t include a function for staff who forgot their passwords, and so they had to pay someone to add one in.

The Health Department has not responded to WasteWatch’s requests for clarification, so, for the moment, the exact details of this affair will remain murky.

At least one word seems like a pretty clear summary though: oops!

William Shrubb

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