Contingency plans step up Y2K problem

The year 2000 bug itself is just part of the millennial computer problem. Even more costly will be the preparations, and the hype.
Written by Julia Sommerfeld, Contributor and  Jane Wakefield, Contributor

Contingency plans to deal with the millennium bug will create more problems than the bug itself, according to research from the Gartner Group.

Gartner's latest Year 2000 World Status report says companies are stockpiling, planning to shut factories down over the millennium period and changing suppliers to combat the bug. "The knock-on effect will be quite draining on the economy," says Gartner Group analyst Andy Kite, who believes bugs in computer systems are inevitable but have "insignificant" commercial impact compared with the preparations firms are making to deal with the issue.

The research also found that businesses are postponing e-commerce ventures as they rush to deal with the millennium bug and many are falling behind on bug-compliance programmes. Originally hoping to complete bug fixes by mid-1999, many firms are finding compliance efforts lasting through to year-end.

Internationally, says the report, countries are realising the need to face up to the bug and pressure from organisations like the World Bank has forced poorer countries to make their bug efforts public. The UK, US, France, Australia, China and Japan are among the countries listed as making significant progress with year 2000 compliance and, contrary to popular belief, there are no countries that have not yet taken action to combat the bug's effects.

While concerns remain about Russia's computer systems -- particularly in the public sector -- Kite feels the impact will be limited. "Failures in [Russian] systems are not news because they're not perfect systems in the first instance," he says. Kite is more concerned about Germany where "there are still sizeable parts of the economy especially in the public sector that have been slow to react. During next year there will be inefficiencies and difficulties creeping in and a gradual reduction of efficiency of business transactions", he says.

Gartner's research has found the bug is unlikely to kick off spectacularly on 1 January 2000. Instead, says the analyst, it will be felt by firms throughout the year as business systems run defective code, non-compliant software creeps onto the market and non-compliant data is run on compliant machines. Kite will not put a figure on the economic impact of the bug but thinks the scare-mongers are way off the mark. "Compared to the Armageddon, nuclear bunker, bottled water brigade, we are very optimistic," he says.

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