Accountability is the issue

The House of Lords hearing into the crash of the Chinook helicopter ZD576 on the Mull of Kintyre continues. Early next year the...

The House of Lords hearing into the crash of the Chinook helicopter ZD576 on the Mull of Kintyre continues. Early next year the committee will decide either to uphold or reject the original Board of Inquiry verdict of negligence on the part of the helicopter's pilots.

But why should this be worthy of a campaign in a journal for IT professionals? The answer lies in one word: accountability.

Lacking the expertise to evaluate the possibility of malfunction in the safety-critical software onboard the Chinook, investigators were forced to turn for advice to the very company that manufactured the software under suspicion.

Should the finding be allowed to stand, the implication is that if specialist manufacturers find no fault in their own equipment after a major failure it is safe to blame the system's operators.

With complex technologies increasingly replacing humans in decision-making processes, particularly in safety-critical areas, there is a need to strengthen - not reduce - the accountability of suppliers.

There is also the human element in this miscarriage of justice. The finding against the pilots of ZD576 also undermines the basis of British justice, which is that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Read more on IT legislation and regulation

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