When it was announced in 2002, it was hailed as the biggest civil IT programme in the world. Then, in September 2011, the UK government said it was killing off the NHS National Programme for IT (NHPfT, later known as Connecting for Health). That was 9 years after the project was launched, and after spending £12.7 billion of taxpayer’s money on the failed NHS IT system.
The system was meant to store medical records for the entire population, as well as incorporating a nationwide email system for the entire health service, and enabling electronic access to things like X-rays and prescriptions. But the Major Projects Authority (responsible for “improving the delivery success rate of major projects across central government”) stepped in and put the sprawling, chaotic project to bed after costs reached more than double the intended amount.
Whilst this was undoubtedly a massive fail, a few key features of NHPfT have survived and are now used by the HHS. This includes the service-wide email service and a system that stored patient’s care records. Hospitals and GPs have now been told to look locally for help with IT.
Millennium Bug Fail
When the clocks struck 00:00 on 01/01/00, things were supposed to go fairly CRAZY. Planes were meant to drop out of the sky, security systems were meant to fail, your toaster was going to chase you round the house and electrocute your hamster. You get the picture.
Thanks to the media getting sucked in by the doom-laden prophecies of a few IT professionals who stood to make a lot of money out of ‘future-proofing’ organisations against this apparent threat, the Millennium Bug quickly became accepted as something that actually existed and which would have some pretty apocalyptic consequences if huge sums weren’t spent on doing something about it.
Some estimates suggest the worldwide cost of preparing for the millennium bug was around $500 billion dollars, yet when the clocks struck midnight and we bravely entered the year 2000, it turned the whole thing was a load of nonsense.
Soviet Early Warning Fail
We now move from feverishly trying to avert an apocalypse that was never going to happen in the first place to narrowly avoiding nuclear Armageddon courtesy of those pesky Russians.
Back in 1983, the world came perilously close to WWIII thanks to a software glitch in the Soviet’s missile early warning system. It was meant to ignore signals created by sunlight bouncing off clouds and onto their satellites, but it turned out not to work too well. One day, their screens showed 5 ballistic missiles heading out of the US straight for Russia, and they only chose not to retaliate when Lt Col Stanislav Petrov decided he had a “funny feeling” in his gut that the US would fire more than 5 missiles if it was a real attack. Nice one Stan!
Thanks to Brad Farrar for this post. Brad provides IT support in London and beyond and is a keen tech blogger. Perhaps if Brad was involved, these epic fails could have been avoided!