"We should have turned it off and on again," admits IBM chief over Australian census fail

Millions of people were unable to fill in the online survey when the system crashed in August

"We should have turned it off and on again," admits IBM chief over Australian census fail

[Rick Rycroft AP/Press Association Images]

As everyone with even the most basic understanding of computers and their inner workings, when it stops working, switch it off and turn it on again. Which is why the IT people in charge of Australia’s census last August have become a nation punch line, after a top IBM engineer has revealed the simple trick would have been enough to prevent the 40-hour crash that prevented millions of people from filling in the online questionnaire.

Having dispelled the traditional paper forms and costly invigilators, Malcolm Turnbull’s government had touted the online census as the future of demographic data collection, with talk of even trialling online elections and stringent cyber security. Instead, the affair ended with Kerry Purcell, head of IBM Australia, called before a senate committee examining what went wrong, who offered the elected officials the most basic piece of tech support.

“If we had out time again we would have tested a hard power it off, power it on that router. That would have discovered earlier that we had that reboot and configuration loading problem,” Purcell said.

The comments immediately caught the imagination of the Australian social media using public, with the hashtag ‘#censusfail’ soon trending, for the second time, in the country.

IBM Australia has now issued an apology to the Australian people, with Purcell telling the senate hearing that he is planning on negotiating a settlement with the government over the tech company’s failure to fulfil the terms of its $10m (€7m) contract.

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