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Tuesday, February 16, 1999 Published at 02:33 GMT


World: Europe

Y2K latest: Avoid Italy

Bill and Monica yes, but no mention of possible computer chaos

With 10-and-a-half months to go before the date which many fear could cripple obsolete computers and electrical systems around the world, Italy's official body to deal with the problem has just met for the first time.


The BBC's Matt Prodger: Dire consequences are predicted
In what some correspondents are calling the 'ostrich approach' to the Y2K problem, the Italian government did create a panel of unpaid experts, but gave it no support staff to carry out its recommendations.

The head of the committee, Professor Ernesto Bettinelli of Padua University, certainly appears to take the problem seriously.

"When I was a junior minister in the last government I stressed the urgency of the problem. Yet we have got this far and everything has still to be done," he said in an interview published on Sunday.

But he was not able to use the 320th day before possible global computer meltdown to work on the problem - he was supervising exams for his students for the whole of Monday.

'Public services affected'

The millennium bug affects any system which stores the year as two digits rather than four. When 1999 becomes 2000, many computer systems could malfunction.

Italy appeared weakest in "the adaptation of hospital equipment and systems directly linked to the lives of ordinary members of the public," the professor told the Corriere Della Sera newspaper.


[ image: All roads lead to Rome, but possibly not at the end of 1999]
All roads lead to Rome, but possibly not at the end of 1999
This is a reference to "embedded systems" which, although not actually computers, contain microchips made before the Y2K problem was identified, or which were expected not to last until 2000.

So it seems Italian lifts and aircraft could be best avoided on 31 December 1999.

Unlike most developed countries which started to think seriously about the scale of the problem within the last year, if not earlier, Italy has not had a national campaign to raise awareness about the millennium bug.

Some Y2K experts say 1993 would have been a good time for governments and large companies to start dealing with the problem to ensure complete compliance.

Millennium pilgrims


[ image:  ]
But at the end of this year Rome is likely to be the focus for large numbers of the world's one billion Catholics to commemorate what many believe is the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Some 25 million pilgrims are expected to converge on the Italian capital in 2000, unless the lack of Y2K compliance outlined by Professor Bettinelli puts them off.

According to the Corriere Della Sera, the professor could not say whether the Italian ministers had now woken up to the problem.

"Try asking them that directly," he told his interviewer.

But he did express the hope that the problem could be treated with the help of conscripts from the Italian armed forces who have computer experience.

"We hope we succeed in getting them," he said.

When the BBC tried to call Italy's millennium compliance enforcers on Monday for further information, the operator said that there were no telephones and the office was still under construction.



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Internet Links


Action 2000

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