Written by Jill Day of the UK distributors of Forecast 5, Kipps Business Reporting.
What to do when details of 16,000 Covid-positive cases disappear from Test and Trace spreadsheets?
‘To err is human but to really foul things up requires a computer’ is attributed to Paul Ehrlich, the American scientist: Public Health England proved it to be true of Excel when details of 16,000 Covid-positive cases disappeared from its Test and Trace spreadsheets in early October last year, resulting in 1,500 unnecessary deaths. Someone had used the wrong Excel file format, XLS rather than the more recent XLSX. And XLS spreadsheets have 2 rows to the power of 16, about 64,000. This meant that during some automated process, cases had vanished off the bottom of the spreadsheet, and nobody had noticed.
”It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is important to heed the lesson of failure.”“
NEW YORK – Protesters hold up an effigy of Enron’s Kenneth Lay during a march against the World Economic Forum (WEF) February 2, 2002 in New York City. By Anthony Correia.
- 24% of Enron spreadsheets had at least one formula with an Excel error
- There was little diversity in the functions used in spreadsheets – 76% used the same15 functions
- Spreadsheets were significantly poor at long calculation chains.
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