System Failure

by | Jul 6, 2021 | ICT4D |

system failure

Weeks ago, I received the first dose of the COVID vaccine at a local centre. I was on the paper list, but not on the computer. After 15 minutes with 5 people trying, I was told, “Don’t worry I’m from your GP surgery, I’ll make sure it is sorted out.” 2 weeks later the letters and SMS started up again inviting me for my first jab. On the phone, the GP surgery assured me they would sorted. Now we’re nearly 2 months later. Lots of assurances of things being resolved, but never a follow up call and nothing is sorted. Each time I call or visit the GP, I need to repeat the story and then after 15 minutes of looking, I am told they will figure it out.

But they don’t. And I hear nothing. And here’s the thing, I feel a bit helpless. The National Health Service here in the UK has a lot going on. They are overworked, underpaid, and have had a gruelling past 18 months. And I am lost in their system of record keeping. I am a data point in their galaxy of data.

This experience gives me a tiny sense of what it must be like as someone affected by a disaster who has to deal with humanitarian aid system. Who gets lost in our systems. Someone for who our computer systems say do not exist even though they standing right in front of us.

Our systems, just like the NHS system, lose people and we are terrible at following up with them as we try to resolve it. Systems fail, they always will. What we do when they fail says a lot about us and what we see our role as. (Side note here, it also often says a lot about the metrics we use to judge our ‘performance’ too.) When things go wrong, do we blame the person standing in front of us? Or do we take it upon ourselves to fix the system AND to keep the person up to date?

The choice is up to us.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic

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