Digital Breakdown

What if the majority of IT systems in Austria cease to work?

Whether you look at energy, water, infrastructure or communication – the supply with goods and services is dependent on and controlled by IT systems. Without this technology it would not be possible to uphold the current level of efficiency and effectiveness. Side effects of this computerisation are, among others, increasing complexity and societal dependency.

The project “Digital Breakdown” examines the implications of a large-scale failure of such systems. Different scenarios are used in an attempt to demonstrate what causes could possibly lead to a breakdown of supply and communication. Do cyber-attacks have this potential? What would be the consequences of a major blackout? Or could geomagnetic storms become a problem?

Governmental and non-governmental organisations as well as the operators of critical infrastructures or services have developed emergency strategies for a variety of disasters. But how well is Austria prepared? Depending on the different sectors of day-to-day life we will consider various possible factors and look at different frames of reference. It is one thing to maintain supplies of water, food or medical care but another to support transport, communication or the mass production of goods under these circumstances.

Finally, by analysing experts’ opinions and the stances of various stakeholders we will develop recommendations intended for policy makers.

The project looks at various situations which might cause a large-scale systems failure. (Photo: Flickr/fallsroad)