What Constitutes National Resilience?

More news about IT disasters (and disaster recovery) last week, this time concerning a French state financial system. Service was interrupted for four days in a configuration used to pay suppliers, and running SAP software and operated by the national French IT company, Bull. France still has a national computer company, providing mainframes and servers, in contrast with the UK for example, whose national computer company ICL was finally bought out by Fujitsu. But does still having a national computer company make a country more resilient or less? And what other industries or resources make a difference?

Apparently, a country doesn’t need to own all kinds of resources to be resilient – if one accepts that the UK is resilient, for example. It’s a country that no longer has a national automobile industry either, after selling off Rover to BMW. Economically, the UK still holds its own, but then so (just about) does France. Is national resilience a matter of having enough money to buy one’s way out of trouble? Or about having the foresight to prepare for potential dangers? Or perhaps both? Natural disasters play a part in testing any country’s resilience, although Western European countries are not exposed to some of the phenomena that strike the US or parts of Asia. Is a country more resilient if it is less exposed?

While the debate could go on for some time, there is a common thread in the thinking of a number of national governments. It is the notion of a ‘culture of preparedness’ to be inculcated in government agencies, businesses and society, as well as being embedded in the regulatory and legal structures. When this is the starting point, the importance of having one’s own national computer company, car industry or other material resources becomes more of an economic issue than a key factor in resilience.