European Union public administrations are still not treating the conversion of their IT systems to the euro currency seriously enough, according to the European Commission's Informatics Directorate (DI).
Representatives from EU member states met commission officials at an "Adapting European information systems to the euro" conference here last week. The purpose of the event was to report on the state of play of the member states' initiatives and exchange best practice.
Declan Deasy, a senior DI official, said: "The introduction of the euro is the most significant planned business change ever to have faced the European IT community and its customers. IT support will be essential for its success."
"Over the last few years we have come to depend on information systems to an extent that is unknown to most politicians. It is incumbent upon us to convince public administrations that the time to act is now," he said.
Recent estimates predict that the cost of converting public administrations' IT systems - everything from budgets to social security systems - will reach 2.5bn ecu, he said.
Deasy also outlined the Commission's initiatives to prepare its own systems for the advent of the euro. Only 50 per cent of the Commission's systems are affected by the euro, and of those over half are already compliant, he said.
Earlier this year, the Commission-sponsored European IT Observatory 98 report identified a number of changes that systems should undergo. They included converting historical financial data, updating currency handling hardware and changing paper forms read by optical character recognition.
Deasy said any delay in implementing these changes before the introduction of the euro in January 1999 will create serious problems for both public administrations and private enterprises.
"Those who delay will encounter resource problems, and risk losing competitive advantage to those companies that made changes earlier. Rather than being an opportunity it will become a survival project," he said.
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