In a new report, The BCS Leaders Forum explores the potential impact of software failures on the UK economy and on society. The paper also considers possible remedies and forward strategies.

The National Preparedness Commission and the BCS IT Leaders Forum, a Specialist Group from BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) held a Roundtable chaired by NPC Chair, Lord Toby Harris, to discuss what could be done to reduce the impact of software failures on the UK’s economy and society.

A comprehensive report Elephant in the Room by Gill Ringland former CEO of SAMI and Professor Ed Steinmueller, Professorial Fellow at SPRU, provides an overview of the key points, recommendations, and conclusions from the discussion.

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‘In addition to the authors of this report, the roundtable also included Katie Barnes, Executive Director, NPC, David Miller, Chair of the BCS IT Leaders Forum, Professor Jon Hall of the Open University, and Patricia Lustig, Board Member, Association of Professional Futurists, to facilitate the discussion.’

The main conclusions of the discussion were that:

  • More people and organisations need to be aware of the actual and potential impact of software failures.
  • Software is different. It is intangible and obeys different rules from physical systems, creating problems in for example quality control and regulation.
  • The software element of digital systems failure is a cost to economy and society which will only increase as software has become a utility, is in wider usage, and more vulnerable to failure.

Over the next year, the ITLF will develop actions via four work streams: Policy, complex systems, resilience and intermediaries.

Reports for each are due to be published and a one-day seminar will be held jointly with the NPC in October 2023.

Volunteers wishing to contribute to research or writing on any of the work streams are welcome. Or, join the action planning zoom call on 17th February 2023, from 3pm to 5pm.