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High Integrity Software - The Software Crisis

Since software is so pervasive in our social infrastructure, the consequences of error prone software can be potentially very hazardous. For example, road accidents (or near-accidents) have been caused where car computers cause accelerator pedals to stick; massive delays to air travel occur when the air traffic control systems go down; and many thousands of people can be affected when tax or social security systems fail.

Even though software has been around for nearly half a century, many software projects still fail to be completed on time, within budget, or to the promised specification. The problem has become so acute that it is often referred to as the software crisis.

In 2001, the British Computer Society reviewed over 1000 projects. Of these, only 12.7% succeeded. Of the 500+ projects in the survey that were new software developments, only three succeeded (0.6%). In another survey, 53% of the projects exceeded their costs and delivery dates, or else had cut back greatly on the functional capability of the delivered programs. The cost to national economies of these failures is many billions of pounds, euros or dollars.

Software development today is a process of handcrafting software in a manner that is barely repeatable or quantifiable in terms of costs. Software mechanisms are complex - it is easy to make mistakes, and it is impossible in any practical sense to test a program and be sure that no errors remain in its design. Where systems are highly mission-critical, manual design techniques are insufficient for the task of ensuring the dependability of
software, and because its correctness is uncertain, it is uncertain as to whether a project will have to spend time and money fixing problems. So it is not possible to predict development costs accurately.



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