Despite assurances from Action 2000 that utilities and publics and electricity supplies. services will function on a "business as usual" basis at the turn of the millennium, government ministers and industry analysts alike have questioned the claim.
Donald Dewar, Scottish secretary of state, said last week that the government may need to call on the army to resolve any breakdowns in telecommunications and the electricity supply due to the millennium bug. In a leaked letter he said: "(Reduction in the Territorial Army) could well lay the government open to criticism over a reduction of emergency preparedness at a time when millennium bug problems pose a potential threat to key services, such as electricity and telecommunications."
Meanwhile, Andrew Kyte, research director with the Gartner Group, has slated the millennium preparation in the European public sector. He claimed European governments and public sector organisations have spent between 5% and 10% of the money required to fix their systems. "Hospitals, government procurement, defence procurement, and welfare are areas where we'll see disruption from the end of this year," Kyte said. "The Dutch, Swedes, and the Irish have done a good job, but few European governments can stand up to scrutiny. They've been saying a lot but not really doing much."
Many large computer systems run calculations that refer to the year ahead, meaning the millennium bug could strike from the beginning of 1999, Kyte said.
To monitor the effect of the year 2000 problem across the public and private sector, the government has set up a case study tracking the trials and tribulations of 15 businesses in the Hertfordshire town of Welwyn Garden City. Dubbed Bug Park, the project will help give information about how the bug can be tackled across businesses of different sizes in different sectors, according to Margaret Beckett, leader of the House of Commons who launched the study last week. "Those companies taking part in Bug Park represent a three-dimensional snapshot of the entire UK economy - from a doctors' surgery to an engineering company, from a firm of accountants to a specialist chemical manufacturing company," she said.
DfEE AD CAMPAIGN
The Department for Education and Employment has launched a #1 million advertising campaign to promote its Bug Busters training programme, which became free last month. Newspaper and radio advertising will run through November and December. The DfEE has set up a hotline on 0845 609 1100 to advise companies of the best courses.
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