New U.S. Gov grant system excludes Mac users; $400 billion in grants Windows-only inaccessible

“What if the federal government were about to give away more than $400 billion in grants, but only people whose computers ran on Microsoft software could apply? That is the predicament that many scientists, scholars and others say they are in as the government enters the final phase of its five-year effort to streamline its grant-application process,” Rick Weiss reports for The Washington Post. “The new ‘Grants.gov’ system, under development at a cost of tens of billions of dollars, aims to replace paper applications with electronic forms. It is being phased in at the National Institutes of Health, Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies. All 26 grant-giving agencies are supposed to have their application processes fully online by 2007.”

“The problem: Although many U.S. scientists and others depend on graphics-friendly Macintosh computers, the software selected by the government is not Mac-compatible. And it is expected to remain so for at least a year,” Weiss reports. “Concerns about fairness during the transition have prompted angry humor on Mac-related listservs. ‘Uh, this would be the same government that spent a lot of time and money pursuing Microsoft for its anti-competitive behavior?’ one blogger wrote. ‘And they now offer a government site that mandates monopoly?'”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews reader “Qka” for the heads up.]

[UPDATE: 4:06pm EST: IBM has purchased PureEdge, and now calls the product IBM Workplace Forms; IBM plans to add Mac support in the future and Grants.gov has committed to providing a cross-platform solution by November 2006. In the interim, Grants.gov, in conjunction with NIH, has created a Citrix server solution that allows Mac OS X users to complete their application packages using Mac OS X. The University of Wisconsin has created a single preconfigured package for Mac OS X users to access this solution. This is provided as a service to the community. More info and download link (2.7MB .dmg) here.]
It’s also the same government that has accessibility laws on the books and is not supposed to exclude millions of people from such application processes. This whole mess is typical, of course. Weiss reports that the reason it’s all happening is because of “a small Canadian company called PureEdge Solutions [that was given] the job of creating the electronic forms. The PureEdge solution, it turns out, works only with the Windows operating system. And that is especially galling, several scientists said, as at least one major grant-making agency, the National Science Foundation, has for many years been using a ‘platform-independent’ system that works seamlessly with all kinds of computers.”

Why does the U.S. government feel it’s okay to ghettoize millions of Mac users? Do you feel it’s okay?

Judging from the number of emails we have received already alerting us to this story and based on previous experiences, we can all definitely make an impact here (MacDailyNews was visited by 2.7 million unique visitors in January).

The most important action that you can take, which could actually result in some positive result, as your vote is the key to their having the job: U.S. House of Representatives contact information: http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.shtml

Also contact: (1-800-518-4726)

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64 Comments

  1. While disappointing it’s not surprising that the government would be operating in total ignorance of the computing world.

    It makes a strong statement about how informed our gov officials are without the influence of LOBBYISTS!

  2. Do these idiots have a left hand that their right hand doesn’t know about?

    In a world without borders, who needs Gates & Windows? Well, if you want a grant you’re gonna need both.

  3. In july IBM acquired PureEdge Solutions Inc. based in Canada. Is this the same PureEdge?
    Surely, IBM can provide no-Windows-centric solutions. They can cover the whole Windows, Linux and OsX world methinks.

  4. Let’s not forget Linux either: nearly every faculty member I know uses either Linux or Macs as their primary OS. Now there are Windows machines around (in the student labs), so I suppose we can use them for the actual submission process, but WHAT A PAIN, and how incredibly stupid to force this behavior.

    I’ve submitted numerous grants to NSF using my Mac, and their system works just fine. Why the he|| the rest of the government granting agencies couldn’t just “steal” the NSF fastlane procedure, I have no idea. Billions of tax payer dollars to re-invent the wheel–and then do it wrong. How typical indeed!

    MW: Open. I kid you not ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  5. This is nothing new.

    I’ve been forced to use Windows based systems for over a year since the U.S. Department of State made their DSP-5 submissions for getting authorization to talk technical details of items listed under ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) with non U.S. persons. Their altenative for the foreseeable future? Do everything by paper. (This is their form of assuring accessibility.) Get the forms from State, fill them out, have them delivered by courier (FedEx will do) then contact them about updates and status by mail. (I’ve never had any of the ITAR people answer their phone and they return phone calls when I’ve left messages <5% of the time.) So… I can use a Windows based system and file quickly, do updates and get status within minutes … or I can go back to the 70s and use snail mail.

    The U.S. Department of State has been claiming for almost a year that they are in the process of moving to a system which allows non Windows based systems to file electronically. However, to date, they have not done so.

    Because of this I don’t believe for a single second that NIH and others will be accessible by non Windows users within a year or so of the systems coming online.

    The oddity here is that NIH is a big user of Macs.

  6. Grants.gov and NIH is partnering to provide free access to Citrix servers for Non-Windows users (e.g. Macintosh users) who are looking for an alternative to using PC emulation software with the PureEdge forms. This service will be available for use at the end of December 2005.

  7. The article read…

    “But NIH and other agencies already have been asking for electronic applications for smaller grants, triggering hair loss among frustrated Mac users.”

    This is EXACTLY what my research paper was supposed to to cover!

  8. Once again, Mac users taken for granted.

    “National Science Foundation, has for many years been using a ‘platform-independent’ system that works seamlessly with all kinds of computers.”

    The only problem there is that its a solution that is fair and makes sense. Since when was common sense ever common?

  9. Not a surprise.

    I used to work for state government and I don’t believe I have ever seen a Mac in any government office I’ve ever visited.

    People should write to PureEdge and voice their concerns. I don’t think it will make a difference however.

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