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New Zealand Vulnerable to Network Failures

Media Release
21 June 2005

New Zealand Vulnerable to Network Failures

The cable damage that has crippled much of the telecommunications network is a wake-up call for the owners and managers of all of New Zealand’s infrastructure assets, says the head of an engineering and technology think-tank.

Dr George Hooper, Executive Director of the Centre for Advanced Engineering, says New Zealand has become economically and socially vulnerable to the increasing complexity and interconnection between networked systems.

He says it’s time to sit down and understand the interdependencies in detail, so that New Zealand is protected from the economic and social upheaval of a failure.

“Modern infrastructure systems have become tightly coupled and highly sophisticated networks that include a whole range of essential services,” says Dr Hooper. “As these have become increasingly interconnected, it’s become difficult to determine the boundaries between networks.

“If we do not address these issues we risk what’s known internationally as a cascade failure, in which the disruption of one network has a domino effect. We have seen an element that in the past 24 hours, with major disruptions for the financial markets and the retail banking system, as well as a huge impact on the business sector.

“It is for precisely this reason that we have organised an international forum on the whole question of infrastructure dependency and the need to make our infrastructure resilient.

The two-day event in Rotorua in August has been designed for the owners and managers of major infrastructure systems, including telecommunications providers, port companies, local and central government, airport authorities, and financial institutions.

“This is the first opportunity for infrastructure owners and network operators to look at the theory around interdependency and come up with some strategies for minimising the impact of a failure. In particular, we need to learn how to integrate a critical human component into the operation of complex systems.

The line-up for the event will include international specialists who have examined a number of recent disasters and disruptions, including the collapse of the World Trade Centre in September 2001, a cascading failure of energy supplies and utilities in north eastern United States in 2003, and the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004.

About CAE
CAE is an independent-think tank and research facilitator associated with the University of Canterbury and funded by grants and sponsorships. CAE’s mission is to advance social progress and economic growth for New Zealand through broadening national understanding of emerging technologies and facilitating early adoption of advanced technology solutions.


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