What good are computers anyway?

They'd have saved thousands of pigs and cows

Part 42 In this infrequent, irregular section, we will argue the case for the existence and widespread adoption of computers.
This week: Foot and Mouth disease.

The UK foot and mouth epidemic is getting increasingly out of control. It looks increasingly likely that the elections will have to be postponed after large sections of the countryside have effectively been closed down. The number of animals needed to be culled stands at nearly half a million and some predictions say that half the UK's livestock will ultimately have to be destroyed.

Had the government and farmers used computers, however, the problem wouldn't be anywhere near as bad.

The rampant spread of the disease has been put down to the extensive, fast-paced criss-crossing of animals in Britain. There have been official statements to say that farmers were doing this to abuse the EU's system of farming grants. Sheep were being bought and moved to a farm in time for administrators to record the number of livestock and reward grants accordingly. Then, as soon as they had gone, the sheep were sold on to another farm the inspectors were due to visit - and so on and so forth.

Had computers been used to track movement of sheep, cows, pigs etc, the government and vets would have been able to follow the spread of the disease far more efficiently. This would have nipped it in the bud earlier and saved hundreds of thousands of animals.

A British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) was set up following the BSE crisis to follow cows' movements but we still have nothing that tracks pigs - the animals that sparked the epidemic. The government has plans for following sheep, but they've not been introduced.

Also, the existing BCMS system uses snail mail to send information, causing week-long delays. Using computers, email would be available and would make the information accessible in a fraction of the time.

So there you have it. Computers are good for you and the foodchain. ®

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