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Tuesday, 16 June, 1998, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK
IT army to prevent 'digital doomsday'
2000
The government hope the 'bug busters' will help to alleviate the effects of the problem
The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said in March that the government is to hire a 20,000 strong army to tackle the threat posed by the 'Millennium Bug'.

In an article for the Independent newspaper, Mr Blair referred to the bug as a "technical timebomb" and warned that unless the problem is tackled quickly it could threaten Britain's economic performance.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair: 'There has been progress, but not enough'
At the heart of the government's plans is a proposal to offer grants to train young, older or unemployed people to help companies deal with the problem.

"We will offer a 1,300 time-limited grant ... and if we get the response from business we are looking for there will be an army of 20,000 'bug busters'," he said.

Many computers are threatened because, put simply, their internal clocks read only the last two digits of each year, so they may confuse 2000 with 1900.

In the article, Mr Blair said that while the UK is some way ahead of other countries in dealing with the problem, a quarter of British firms have still not started taking action.

"If we want to remain strong and competitive we must start dealing with this now," he said.

"There is a risk that our growth prospects will be damaged as companies divert resources to cope with computer failures. Some might even go bust because they can't fix them."

Mr Blair estimates that the cost of dealing with the problem across the public sector stands at 3bn..

He said that 70m will be used to help small and medium-sized companies develop the skills necessary to deal with the bug and that a further 17m will be put into the Action 2000 initiative, an awareness-raising campaign.

The Prime Minister, who has tabled the Millennium Bug as an item for discussion at the forthcoming meeting of the G8 countries, also announced that a World Bank Trust Fund would be set up to help developing countries cope.

"Global awareness remains patchy. In a recent survey by the World Bank, only 37 out of 128 borrowing member countries said they were aware of it", he said.

"That is why we are putting 10m into a new World Bank Trust Fund ... We hope that our G8 and EU partners will follow suit."

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Tony Blair outlines his proposals for an army of 'bugbusters' (34')
See also:

30 Mar 98 | millennium bug
30 Mar 98 | millennium bug
30 Mar 98 | millennium bug
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