A United Nations Y2K agency has predicted the great majority of worldwide organisations will experience only 'limited' damage from the millennium bug, but warned of possible public health and safety problems in the New Year.
The International Y2K co-operation centre (IYCC), which was set up earlier this year by the UN to track the Y2K bug, said that although there would be many Y2K errors, these would have only a moderate impact.
In its final global situation report, the centre predicted few serious Y2K-caused effects in energy, telecommunications, finance, transportation, customs and immigration, and food and water infrastructures.
However, it cautioned that in health and hospitals and in government services there remains "a medium to high risk that localised Y2K-caused errors could adversely affect public health and safety in the early days of January."
It said this risk is most pronounced in developing countries and in smaller organisations worldwide. After the early part of January, the report said errors in systems that have not been fixed, and unexpected errors in fixed systems, will lead to degraded performance in many infrastructures. It said electricity generation and distribution systems are one example.
Remote power monitoring units in the electricity distribution network that are not Y2K compliant will send incorrectly time stamped information about local voltage or about ordinary (i.e. non Y2K caused) short circuits to central control systems, the report stated.
These control systems will create or encounter erroneous diagnostic or status information, which will trigger a request for human assessment of the situation or for manual operation.
Depending on the number of such incidents and the preparedness of personnel to handle them, erratic network performance, including reduced power quality or localised network performance, and reduced power quality or localised network protection outages, could occur.
But Bruce McConnell, IYCC director, said the effect would not be catastrophic: "Around the world, the great majority of organisations, including business and government, will experience only limited damage from the Y2K bug," he said.
"The combination of a great deal of dedicated effort, the limited use of digital controls in most infrastructures, and society's general resilience mean that, although there will be many Y2K-caused errors, the combined negative effect of these errors will be moderate."
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