Now that the UK Prime Minister has given a speech on Year 2000 computer problems to a large gathering of small and medium businesses (CI No 3,380), and written on the subject in the Independent newspaper, surely everyone must be running around asking themselves whether their banks, telecoms providers, supermarkets, electricity and water suppliers will […]
Now that the UK Prime Minister has given a speech on Year 2000 computer problems to a large gathering of small and medium businesses (CI No 3,380), and written on the subject in the Independent newspaper, surely everyone must be running around asking themselves whether their banks, telecoms providers, supermarkets, electricity and water suppliers will be Year 2000 compliant? Well, no, actually. In spite of coverage of Tony Blair’s speech on national television on Monday night, the UK’s tabloid newspapers either made no mention of it at all, or relegated coverage to a small paragraph hidden in the depths of the publication, and this, it would seem, suits the government for the time being. Indeed the UK government, and every other responsible government in the world, is hopelessly torn between the need to retain an air of calm to prevent the sort of panic on a global scale which the Armageddon scenarios of Year 2000 failures may bring, while at the same time attempting to galvanize thousands of businesses into action now, straight away, immediately.
By Joanne Wallen
Robin Guenier, the former head of the previous government’s TaskForce 2000, and now somewhat outcast for suggesting the government wasn’t doing enough, quickly enough, asked the new government action group Action 2000 whether it wouldn’t be beneficial to include the general public at this stage, to get them to put pressure on those institutions which affect their daily life. Don Cruickshank, former director general of telecoms regulator Oftel and now chairman of Action 2000, replied that the organization would begin mounting public confidence campaigns in the latter half of 1999. Presumably by this time, he is hoping to be able to tell the good folk of the UK that there is really nothing to worry about, all fixing work is progressing nicely and all systems will be ready by December 31. Of course, the problem is, the members of the public that we don’t want to panic and worry, and cause to withdraw all their funds from potentially non-compliant banks, and sell shares in case the stock market crashes, are the same people that run small and medium businesses, or work in large computer-run organizations, or draw unemployment benefits from a government department with a huge, date-dependent computer system. Guenier’s concern, however, is what on earth people will say if the government suddenly has to turn round in October 1999 and break the bad news to them? Oddly enough, the government that is anxious not to spread panic among its citizens, is none other than the one that just a couple of months ago banned them from buying, selling and above all eating beef on the bone, because of the relatively infinitesimal risk they may contract the human variant of Mad Cow disease. You, our readers, deemed to be those working in businesses highly dependent on technology, are presumably responsible enough to be told that if you haven’t already starting fixing your systems now, you must start immediately, otherwise the consequences may be too dire to even imagine. But just don’t go home and tell your mother.