Public in the dark about Y2K

Hazy and inaccurate government information about the Millennium bug is fueling public paranoia, according to a new MORI report about public perception.

The survey, commissioned by IT giant ICL, showed one in three of the general public believe the millennium bug is a threat to their personal safety. More worryingly, 29 percent of IT experts agree with them.

The poll, which surveyed 596 members of the public and 200 IT specialists in January, revealed an high level of awareness of the bug but a poor understanding about the ramifications in everyday life. When questioned about the type of equipment likely to be affected, 43 percent of the public listed video recorders, 44 percent the Internet, 46 percent security alarms, 57 percent cash points and 65 percent PCs. In fact all may be affected, according to ICL.

Commenting on the survey, Jane Burns, marketing manager for ICL's Year 2000 programme said: "In the light of the findings, we urge government to instigate early naming and shaming of organisations falling behind with bug planning. The public need clear information and definitive answers. The public shouldn't be treated like children needing to be spoon-fed information."

The survey also found that 62 percent of IT specialists and 54 percent of the general public think that the millennium bug poses a serious threat to public services. 53 percent of IT specialists and 43 percent of the public would refuse to fly on midnight next New Year's Eve.

A Cabinet Office spokesman claimed research from Action 2000 and the government "was yet to indicate significant concern," although he admitted the government had undertaken no general surveys of the public. An Action 2000 survey into public perception of the bug is due at the end of February.


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