Australian national census fails in the IBM cloud

Online form goes down hard ... and stays down

UPDATE Australia is today conducting a contentious national census, and things aren't going smoothly.

The nation's Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has hired IBM to run the online data collection portal and at the time of writing The Register's antipodean outpost, and plenty of others, are finding it impossible to reach the site.

Your correspondent is experiencing 100 per cent packet loss to census.abs.gov.au, with the IP address 150.207.169.5 – which we believe belongs to the data centre where IBM SoftLayer lives in the Australian city of Melbourne - timing out for the last half hour.

The hashtag #CensusFail is doing decent business on Twitter, with many people complaining they cannot reach the census site.

The Bureau begs to differ:

Some trying to complete the census – fines of AU$180 apply for those who do not do so by September 23 – say the site is crashing mid-census, but not saving data as promised.

Others, such as prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, have reported a smooth and easy census experience.

The census has already been dogged by controversy after the Bureau decided that names would be retained for four years, up from the previous eighteen months. Privacy advocates have asked for assurances data-matching conducted over four years won't be invasive and queried the Bureau's security. The Bureau has responded with assurances it takes great pains to secure data and has no remit to conduct data matching. ®

Updated to add

Not long after Vulture South's operatives penned this story, the Bureau of Statistics acknowledged the mess and the fact that the online census form was down and would not come back.

The outage is hugely embarrassing: the ABS promoted the census as the night on which the nation pauses and insisted its (hired) systems were ready for the expected load. Those assurances have proven false, grist for the mill for those who argue the Bureau's security systems are also likely to be fallible.

IBM's role in the exercise is also likely to be questioned - it was paid at least AU$9.6m to design and implement the eCensus solution.


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