Human error and systems failure have been two constructs that have become linked in many contexts. In this paper we particularly focus on the issue of failure in relation to that group of software systems known as information systems. We first review the extant theoretical and empirical work on this topic. Then we discuss one particular well-known case - that of the London ambulance service computer-aided despatch system (LASCAD) project - and use it as a particularly cogent example of the features of information systems failure. We maintain that the tendency to analyse information systems failure solely from a technological standpoint is limiting, that the nature of information systems failure is multi-faceted, and hence cannot be adequately understood purely in terms of the immediate problems of systems construction. Our purpose is also to use the generic material on IS failure and the specific details of this particular case study to critique the issues of safety, criticality, human error and risk in relation to systems not currently well considered in relation to these areas.
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