Border Security (again) – at least the system works

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2011 by grahamharrowell

Cameron & Clegg’s chums in the private sector are forever slagging off the public sector. They are happy to criticise any government computer systems but oddly their own wonderful IT solutions are not that reliable. I was reminded this week of the recent Blackberry fiasco when the wonderful messaging system failed and for days customers were left incommunicado. Then came HSBC. Their computer failed and their customers couldn’t access their own money. Not so apologetic as Blackberry, they just told customers to sort things out when the system was up and running again. Easier said than done when you’ve just pumped 25 gallons of 4-star into the motor and you can neither pay nor leave the garage. What happened this week was that I called in at the Peugeot dealer to book a service for the car. The IT had failed and the receptionist was using paper and pencil (as was done previously) and the only possible failure would arise from pressing too hard and snapping the lead.
The shortcomings of the private sector’s IT compared with that of the Civil Service hasn’t yet cropped up in the Daisy May affair yet. Forget for a moment the ins and outs of who was and wasn’t supposed to be checked and what sort of pressures might lead to a relaxation (no, not waving anyone through, that’s what the press says) of the checks at the border. One thing nobody asked was whether all the passengers enter unchecked when the IT goes down. Unlike Blackberry, HSBC or Peugeot (who exist solely to make a profit for their shareholders and despite talking endlessly about customer service actually don’t give a damn about their customers) the business of the Border Agency is too important to stop. You can’t hold all the passengers until the system is restored, you can’t write down all their details, check them later and then chase up any problems. Now it seems one can talk about the Warnings Index and that the “Fight Club” rule no longer applies, let’s hear it for a system which has a back up which can operate indefinitely while there is still a power supply and for quite some time until the batteries fail. True, some of the resilience originally built into the system has been got rid of because it was expensive and so resilient it was unnecessary, but it works – which is more than can be said for the stuff used by businesses. That’s the essential difference between public and private sectors. Organisations like the NHS actually care about the job they do and people who work in the public sector take pride in their job.

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