En scenariobaserad analys av ett IT-avbrott i socialtjänsten
Anpassningar och social redundans
A scenario-based analysis of an IT failure in the social services – adaptations and social redundancy
This article takes as its starting point the fact that documentation as well as communication within the social services are to a great extent dependent on IT. Against that backdrop, an investigation is presented whose aim is to contribute to knowledge about what IT failures can mean within the social services. The focus is on the immediate consequences for the documentation and communication of the social services. The aim is also to contribute to the understanding of how the course of events relates to the maintenance of social work despite interruptions. Systems theory provides an overarching theoretical framework. Based on that approach, social work is seen as a societal functional system aiming at the administration of exclusion. The study is based on empirical material consisting of assessments of the consequences of failures, as formulated by social services staff in risk and vulnerability analyses conducted within the framework of the investigation. The results include descriptions of consequences that arise as a result of inaccessible operative systems but also as a result of, for example, the disruption of VoIP telephony. Further, the results describe concrete adaptations and suggestions for possible changes that potentially reduce the vulnerability entailed by IT dependency. The conclusion is that the IT failure does not lead to a corresponding failure of social work as a functional system, despite technical dependencies. The system is maintained through adaptations, which are possible thanks to functional equivalence (that is, a goal may be reached in several ways) and available redundancy. It is the staff that, besides a number of technical adaptations, make concrete organizational and social adaptations, to some degree at the expense of their working environment. This is called social redundancy in order to highlight how lost technology is replaced by social processes.