Humans rely on critical infrastructures to survive. Much of this infrastructure is made up of complex systems that are highly interconnected and interdependent. When one fails, many others are also affected, with catastrophic consequences. Decision makers face the challenge of designing and implementing decisions that have the potential to impact multiple sectors, stakeholders and the environment within which they all exist.
The UNESCO Chair Strathmore University in partnership with the Royal Academy of engineering has recently convened a series of impactful workshops and breakfast meetings, creating a platform for stakeholders, including policymakers, engineers, scientists, economists, and experts from diverse fields, to come together and discuss the governance of safer complex systems. A system is a collection of people, machines, processes that operate together to achieve a common goal. The goal only emerges when there is cooperation and if the goal is not met, then what is failing? At the heart of these discussions lies a fundamental concern, quality and safety.
These gatherings have become a forum for of experts to share insights and contribute to a broader challenge and ecosystem mapping exercise initiated under the Engineering X Safer Complex Systems program. The collaboration of minds from various disciplines is proving pivotal in shedding light on the intricate web of factors contributing to the issue at hand.
In this light, the UNESCO Chair are assessing the work culture in the energy sector to which level of involvement each person is in the sector and how it impacts the safety of the practitioners and the communities they serve.
In each of the breakfast meetings the UNESCO Chair tackled different themes that paly a pert in determining how the current system performance affects how the system should be. Learning from failures was part of the main themes that mainly affect how the system performs,
Dr. Eng. Musonye, Energy Consultant and Lecturer at Strathmore University emphasized on the need to establish a framework to deal with the safety of complex systems adding that there have been no report on safety concerns that have been made public.
“There is need for establishment of a framework, in each agency, to deal with safety of complex systems There have been cases of repeated safety problems, like the Sidindi Fire, which means that there is a gap in learning from failures .From the all the cases we’ve seen and heard of about safety issues, there no evidence of systematic failure analysis of incidences.In event where such an analysis has been done, there is no publicly available report, which can benefit all stakeholders to the complex system,’’ Dr. Eng. Musonye noted.
Policy instruments and laws should be put in place to govern the design and operation of complex systems in the energy sector, as well as areas such as transport, education, water supply and healthcare. Professionals in each field have the responsibility for ensuring that they do what is right and safety standards are upheld.
Ms. Anne Wacera Wambugu, Head of Electrification and Electricity Access at Strathmore University pointed out that whenever judges and lawyers comes head-on with cases around quality issue, they tend to overlook the engineer’s perspectives.
“In the courtroom, the key players are judges and lawyers, and when faced with quality issues, their rulings tend to align with their legal expertise rather than an engineer’s perspective. Therefore, it is imperative for the government to involve the energy sector when formulating policies that impact the lives of those in the field of energy.” Ms. Wambugu said.
At the end of the day, the community decides what they want to purchase and they use what they feel is comfortable for them to use. Inclusivity and listening to diverse voices is another theme addressed in this workshops.
Dr. Eric Hsu, a Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer with Y-RISE at the MacMillan Center at Yale University said that buyers of consumer electronics are often hoodwinked to buy counterfeited electronic gadgets. He reiterated that there is a need to educate people on how to identify good electronic gadgets adding that laws should be enforced to weed out low quality consumer electronics.
“Education of the masses is very important a buyer’s ability to identify products because sometimes sellers misinform buyers. There are those people who are invested in doing the right thing, others need guidance to do the right thing, others need laws to do the right thing while others need to be pushed to do the right thing,” Dr. Eric Hsu said.
The governance of safer complex systems has used system approaches to ensure the well-being of practitioners and the communities they serve. These discussions have illuminated the path toward safer, more reliable, and better-governed complex systems in various sectors, ultimately benefiting society as a whole.
This article was written by Christine Mwangi.
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