Updated: 27/10/16 : 07:50:55
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World: Australia's online census failure could have rebooted system

It is the familiar refrain of IT workers across the globe: "Have you switched it off and on again?"

But few expected it to be the answer to avoiding a system failure which stopped millions of Australians completing August's national census.

That is, until IBM's chief engineer admitted switching the router off and on again would have prevented the 40-hour outage from ever happening.

The revelation has caused disbelief - and hilarity.

The Australian government had touted the census website as the future, seeking to impress voters with its cybersecurity credentials and plans to trial online elections.

It ended in embarrassment - and a host of memes - after it had to be taken offline for almost two days after suffering a "malicious" cyber-attack on 9 August.

But when Kerry Purcell, head of IBM Australia, was brought before a senate committee looking into the fiasco, he admitted the fault could have been detected before the site went live - had they done one very simple thing.

"If we had our time again we would have tested a hard power it off, power it on that router, that would have discovered earlier that we had that reboot and configuration loading problem," he said.

The hashtag "censusfail", which first emerged during the site outage in August, was soon trending again in Australia.

Mark DiStefano, political editor of Buzzfeed Australia, described the fiasco as "champagne comedy", while others began to share pictures and gifs from British sitcom The IT Crowd.

Sharing a picture of IT Crowd star Chris O'Dowd, Peter (@MurphyMagic) tweeted: "You couldn't make this stuff up - oh, hang on..."

IBM Australia has apologised, with Mr Purcell telling the hearing he is negotiating a settlement with the government for failing to fulfil the A$10m (6,2m/7m/$7.6m) contract.