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Tech will go wrong, and we need to be ready.

Knowing what you'll do ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ things go wrong is a key part of ensuring Operational Resilience. Unless that is, you're the UK's Home Office (Interior Ministry), where apparently you don't need to.


Yesterday, the UK's e-gates used for passport control failed. As a result, passengers were forced to wait in line โ€” in some cases for hours โ€” while documents were manually checked. And while UK passport holders are getting reacquainted with the joys of waiting in line at borders, this is embarrassing.


As a BBC report highlights, things were made more chaotic because there was absolutely no contingency plan for what they would do if the gates failed. It was deemed to be so unlikely that no plan was necessary. You don't have to know anything about IT systems, border controls or operational resilience to realise that this is the height of negligence.




It's ironic that while regulated sectors like banking are being required to ensure their systems are resilient enough to be able to withstand outages โ€” we don't ever want payment systems or ATMs going offline for long periods of time โ€” the same principles seemingly don't apply to government-run critical national infrastructure like a border. Particularly when one of the selling points of your government is having stronger border controls.


What this incident highlights is a common Human Risk dynamic. Because something has never happened or is deemed to be incredibly unlikely, no plans are made. Often the people being asked to make that determination are those who have implemented or are responsible for a system or process. In other words, people who have already invested time and effort in designing it and are, therefore, more likely to be wilfully blind to the risks of things going wrong.


Of course, there are going to be situations where genuinely unpredictable things happen. But the idea that technology won't ever fail and, therefore, no plans are necessary is delusional.


Video ยฉ BBC News via Lucy Easthope on Twitter, captions mine.

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