Liberal Party of Australia: why are you paying so much for ancient software?

Dev pulls apart Parakeelia's Feedback to find DataFlex underneath

An Australian developer has taken a look at the Liberal Party's controversial Feedback software, and guesses that MPs are paying a fairly steep licence for something developed on DataFlex.

For those of you born later than the first Linux release, DataFlex was a Windows development environment that emerged from the DOS era to get visual development capabilities in the 1990s.

The Feedback software from Parakeelia has been the subject of controversy because the license fee – reportedly AU$2,500 annually per Liberal member of parliament – comes out of taxpayer-funded electoral allowances; and because the company is a major donor to the party.

The software in question is a simple contact database with mail merge, populated from the electoral database and census data, with the ability to record individuals' sentiments on political issues.

Writing in a personal capacity, Microsoft regional director Adam Cogan has taken a look at the Feedback user manual, which comes complete with screen-grabs to show MPs what they can do with the software.

The Register isn't going to try and cross-check Cogan's calculations, but his conclusion about the origin of the software is worth noting:

The technology that was used is antiquated – the software is really old. In fact, it seems to have originally been built on DataFlex: even though I’m old, the developer who built it must be even older than me.

Further on, he adds: “The application in the 2014 User Guide appears to be some kind of very old school rich client application, possibly DataFlex or even VB6”, noting that since then the software may have had some level of further update for Web connectivity.

Cogan's other very important point is that regardless of the initial development cost, Feedback is so old that its ongoing costs are maintenance rather than development.

Apparently, the Liberal Party is a very undemanding client – or, perhaps, it hasn't benchmarked the price of its software in a long time. ®

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