O2 outage – our digital dependence is becoming risky

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In the last few weeks I have taken part in several discussions about the way big data, robotics and AI will affect companies and their governance.


I’ve tried to challenge the hype about technology. Technology is a servant, not a master and companies need first to figure out what purpose they want it to pursue and what partnerships and relationships they want it to support.


And there is one elephant in the room.


We are becoming steadily reliant on the electricity grid for all our digital systems. What happens when the grid suffers a major outage? All the areas of our lives which have become digital and have discarded paper records could grind to a halt. Hospitals, airlines, information services, traffic management systems, police forces, courts, education, digital auctions – you name it they could all be sunk into chaos.


I was reminded of this risk when I heard today that 30 users of smartphones have lost access to data via the O2 digital network.


I wonder how resilient our information systems are. I sense that fallbacks (I nearly said ‘backstops’) are too rarely thought about. And that our assumptions about centralisation of information may need to change.