In 2016 Australia’s online census crashed and burned after legitimate attempts to complete the survey were mistaken for a DDOS attack, the routers funneling traffic failed and disaster recovery plans did likewise.
A probe into the fail revealed poor planning, little testing, and many red faces. The mess ultimately saw IBM pay AU$30m to the Australian government to compensate for costs incurred in making the census available. Big Blue was vindicated, to some degree, by the fact that Australian government agencies signed off on its security plans. However the incident, which came to be known as #Censusfail, became a byword for Australia’s government being bad at technology.
Little wonder, then, that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) decided to commission an independent audit of its preparedness for the 2021 census.
The first conclusion of the report [PDF] based on that audit is that planning to date has been “partly effective”.
The report goes on to damn preparations with faint praise, find that while “largely appropriate planning and governance arrangements” are in place, “The risk framework is compromised by weaknesses in the assurance arrangements.”
On the IT front, the Bureau’s preparations are again rated “partly effective”.
“Generally appropriate frameworks have been established covering the Census IT systems and data handling, and the procurement of IT suppliers. The ABS has not put in place arrangements to ensure that improvements to its architecture framework, change management processes and cyber security measures will be implemented ahead of the 2021 Census.”