IT is too easy to deploy some technology solution that we should reply on, then somehow, that technology is slowly forgotten, until it falls out of use. Systems that have silently fallen into disuse represent a real problem when these systems are being audited, or when there is an urgent need to rely on that technology. It is problem for private and public institutions, including governments.
The recent revelations the CCTV camera system in Castries — meant to provide the police with footage of activity within the city — had fallen into disuse, should be a wake-up call to us all. Apart from the systemic failure that it represents (teams of idle or undeployed camera-monitoring staff, black-outs of important real-time intelligence to be used to keep citizens safe, value-for-money not being realised for money already spent), should remind of the need for ongoing updates, improvements, and audits.
You may have visited business premises and witnessed some of the early signs of systems falling into disuse. For example:
* Damaged equipment gathering dust while waiting to be replaced;
* Service still unavailable because the “system is down”;
* A dusty or faded sign which issues some instructions;
* Outdated notices appearing on a website or a notice board.
The most significant example that I have encountered, is a “do not switch off” sign near a computer server. Staggeringly, that server had not been powered-off for more than five (5) years. The legacy system that it once housed had long been replaced by two generations of new systems! That was a colossal failure of communication, maintenance, management, and of safety.
In your work environments, whenever you see a sign requiring you to take some action, do you blindly follow that action or do you try to understand the reason behind the sign? Examples like this should remind us that humans, just like computers, can be programmed to take action. A healthy or well-designed environment should never allow indefinite inaction as a result of system failure.
When a computer is rebooted, it checks itself for system failures before continuing. Your general environment should also be subject to the same regular checks for safety. If not, it is time to schedule some regular equipment checks and system audits.
The next time you see a sign, ask a responsible person to explain how relevant that message really is and what it means. If you don’t, then you might be viewing the world around you through unseeing eyes just like a damaged camera.
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