Adding to the snowball effect Tony Blair would like to surround his Action 2000 campaign with, today saw the launch of a cuddly affair known as Pledge 2000.
Headed by Action 2000 managing director Gwynneth Flower and supported by two minor celebrities from the food industry, Pledge 2000 is a public scheme "intended to help all organisations to work in partnership with their customers and suppliers to discuss and resolve issues arising from the Year 2000" (bug).
The plan, according to Flower, is to get everyone "talking and co-operating" about the millennium bug to prevent a chain reaction of tragic events. Her fear is that companies, large and small, have been afraid to talk openly due to the threat of litigation. Pledge 2000 makes it clear that litigation is not on the agenda. Richard Greenhalgh, chairman of Unilever-UK sought to press home the point: "No one wants to get lawyers involved, that will only slow things down" and any deceleration could be catastrophic for companies who fail to recognise the imminent deadline.
Adding his company's good will to the project, Allan Cheeseman, Sainsbury's trading director wants hundreds of other companies to join the Pledge. "We all want to begin the next millennium with our businesses running smoothly, not investigating why we have been affected by the millennium bug."
But for all the good will at the press conference, there are still those who will inevitably ignore the warnings. "I think the smaller companies, particularly the very small, corner shop type companies, they are the ones who could, arguably be at most risk" says Alan Rowley, head of ICL's Year 2000 programme. Being very careful not to criticise Pledge 2000, Rowley acknowledges there is still a gap in the government's efforts. "People working in shops and such like may well be affected but at least they aren't relying on large computing infrastructures." Rowley believes educating the small business man presents a problem with no fail safe solutions.
The Pledge hopes to:
Encourage companies to share information on Bug projects
Help users of products and services to overcome Bug problems and give them access to compliance information
To keep shared Bug data confidential
To work with supply chain partners -- thus ensuring companies down the line are not affected by a supplier/partner's innability to deal with the Bug.
To work to solve the problem rather than turning to solicitors.
Flower added: "If senior managers pledge their companies to do these six things, working with ohers, it will help break the logjam that is stopping people converting their awareness of the Bug into action. But even Flower admits the bug is bound to slip through in some minor instances and has admitted to booking Monday 3rd January 2000 off. "I'm not sure if Nurofen will help my headache", she quipps "perhaps some arsenic will do the trick".