Wed, Jan 07, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Thirty-six hours later, NIA glitch fixed at airports

DOWNTIMEAltogether, four airports experienced failures in their immigration systems, raising calls from all sides for investigations and better computers

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Immigration computer system at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport was finally fixed at 5:10pm yesterday after more than 30 hours of system malfunctions, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) said, one day earlier than it had previously estimated.

The systems malfunction was first discovered on Monday at 6:45am. Kaohsiung International Airport, Kinmen Airport and Nangan Airport on Matsu were also affected, but their problems were fixed late on Monday night.

NIA Chief Hsieh Li-gong (謝立功) said “faulty hard drives” were responsible for the system problems, dispelling rumors that a disgruntled individual was responsible for the glitch. All hard drives in both terminals at Taoyuan had been replaced by yesterday afternoon.

The severity of the damage had led officials to initially estimate the repairs would take another 48 hours to completely restore information, he said.

The agency said it increased efforts to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the country illegally during the crisis and promised to provide a detailed report once the problem had been fixed.

The crash affected tens of thousands of passengers, the NIA said, calling it the worst computer glitch experienced by the agency in the past five years.

To accommodate the long lineups, the NIA opened 40 immigration booths and dispatched additional immigration officers to hand-record passengers’ travel information, which would be entered into the database once the systems were back online.

While the NIA said the average wait per passenger was three to five minutes, some passengers interviewed by TV reporters said they had waited as long as 20 minutes. Some flights were delayed to allow enough time for passengers to board.

“It’s hard to believe that such a glitch would happen in Taiwan,” a traveler said.

Meanwhile, Government Information Office Minister Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) quoted Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) as saying that the Ministry of the Interior should improve its crisis management capabilities and its computer equipment to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring.

Liu urged the ministry to implement measures to deal with security breaches that may have occurred during the computer crash.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chen Ken-te (陳根德) said the glitch was the result of longstanding management problems.

Chen said the legislature should expedite the passage of a draft Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport special statute transforming the airport into a corporation, which in his view would enhance its competitiveness and replace the present bureaucratic system with a professional management team.

KMT Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) said such an incident should not have occurred, adding that the ministry needed to identify the causes and conduct a thorough review of its computer systems.

If the poor quality of its computer systems is found to be the cause of the problem, the government should revise the rules for procurement bids. The current approach whereby bidders who offer the lowest price win a project often leads contractors to compromise on quality, Yang said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the computer crash lasted far too long and had jeopardized national security as well as the nation’s image, adding that the NIA had failed in its duties and should be held responsible.

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