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Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 14:29 GMT


Millennium bug busted

Domesday avoided, say the experts

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

Millennium bug experts say the world is no longer in denial over the computer problem and a global catastrophe on 1 January 2000 now seems unlikely.

Peter De Jager, the Canadian computer consultant who was one of the first to sound the alarm bells, issued a statement on his Website this month entitled "Doomsday Avoided".

"What do I mean when I state confidently we've broken the back of Year 2000 problem? In short, I mean we've overcome the largest Y2K hurdle.

"The Y2K problem was never the actual act of fixing the code, it was the inaction and denial regarding a problem so easily demonstrated as real and pressing, and possessing consequences far exceeding it's humble beginnings," he said.

"Most, not all companies are working on this issue. They are fixing, or have fixed, their systems.

"They have examined, or are examining, their embedded systems problems. We are, for the most part, no longer ignoring Y2K."

Problem 'not solved entirely'

Mr De Jager said that in Canada's case, in the key industries of finance, telecommunications and power, all three were identifying and tackling problems.

He concludes: "Have we 'solved' Y2K? No, not entirely. But, we have avoided the doomsday scenarios. The next 12 months or so are going to be fascinating to watch.

"But it will not, contrary to the ravings found in some of the media reports and in many places on the Internet, be The End Of the World As We Know It. Through hard work and effort, we've broken the back of Y2K."

UK 'in good shape'

In Britain, another expert who gave early warning of the Millennium bug dangers, Robin Guenier, says the three key industries are in good shape here.

"There's been a lot of progress from three months and 12 months ago. People are no longer in denial about it. We're not heading for doomsday," he told The Observer newspaper.

Gwynneth Flower, managing director of the government agency Action 2000, said that while many small companies were still not ready, progress had been made: "Things are better than a year ago. We're well on track to sort out the infrastructure," she told the paper.

Public less concerned

In a USA Today poll this week among the American public, only 21% now expected major problems in 2000, down from 34% three months ago.

The Senate's Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem has published a report expressing concern on health care and some government organisations, but praising large companies in general for having dealt well with the problem.

But their findings echoed the views of many experts that the problem will have more devastating impact in the Far East and less developed countries, where preparations were still at an early stage.

This could have a knock-on effect on even the most Y2K-ready of nations.

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