Thanks for this. I have to admit that, like many others I presume, I haven't
really been thinking much about the Y2K issue. An article by a World Bank
staffperson on the subject is an eye-opener. I am used to hearing panicky
news from America, usually associated with contingency plans like moving to
the desert, but it is discouraging to hear someone familiar with the
problems and issues of developing countries use the same type of language.
I am a little concerned about the vagueness of the threat described in the
article--there will be a 'chain of problems' that will affect us all, and
that seems hard to prepare for unless I do move to the desert. This
shouldn't be a problem for many Africans.
Since I will be heading to Nigeria to assist on a comunications capacity
building project using Internet and computers, I suppose I had better get
schooled on this subject. I know that the computers we intend to purchase
will be Y2K secure, guess those of the ISPs are, but don't know anything
about the phone companies in Nigeria upon whom of course they will depend
for their communications. I won't even speak of the electricity providers in
Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Port Harcourt.
32, Court Place Gardens
Oxford OX4 4EW
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: [log in to unmask] [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On
> Behalf Of Michael Gurstein
> Sent: Friday, January 29, 1999 9:16 PM
> To: UN Reform; ict-4-led
> Subject: Y2K: World Bank Y2K Survey (fwd)
> From: [log in to unmask]
> To: INTERNET-BOBOLSEN * <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: The Year 2000 Bug Is a Menace, No Doubt
> Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 10:27:41 -0600
> The Year 2000 Bug Is a Menace, No Doubt About It
> Jan 27, 1999 - International Herald Tribune
> By: James P. Bond, coordinator of year 2000
> operational initiatives at the World Bank
> It is a startling fact that by next Jan. 1 most developing countries will
> not have fixed their year 2000 computer problems. These threaten them,
> along with neighbors and trading partners, with damaging consequences.
> A World Bank survey of 139 developing countries found that only 35
> percent have a national plan to make systems Y2K-compliant. Last month,
> officials from 120 countries gathered at the United Nations to discuss
> the problem and agreed that their governments would assign it the
> "highest priority."
> Having a national plan is only the first step. Carrying out such plans is
> costly. Wealthy countries and large companies have the funds and skilled
> people to immunize computers and operating software from the millennium
> bug. Many developing countries do not.
> Or they see the threat as vague and distant. Yet many developing
> countries have regional sharing arrangements under which, for example,
> they rely on a neighbor's electrical supply which uses computer
> microchips and software that may not be Y2K-compliant.
> Middle Eastern countries depend on computer-managed desalinization plants
> for water. Oil drilling rigs around the world use embedded chip systems,
> some of them buried on the ocean floor. Food and fuel distribution
> networks, health care, education and road, air and maritime links could
> be severely affected.
> Emerging markets already weakened by capital flight could see their
> recovery delayed as investors steer clear of companies which are not
> Y2K-compliant. A worldwide interbank working group is conducting
> assessments of Y2K progress in six key sectors, with a view to guidance
> in making investment decisions. Many mutual funds are already avoiding
> companies that do not have millennium bug action under way.
> It is in emerging markets that the capacity to fix the bug is weakest.
> One private-sector study found that companies in the worst affected East
> Asian crisis countries have cut computer spending by more than 20
> At the same time, these and other developing countries risk being further
> undermined by a brain drain as high salaries and relaxed visa
> restrictions in wealthier countries siphon off qualified computer experts
> just when their skills are most needed at home.
> The lack of interest in this issue is surprising. The millennium bug,
> living mysteriously and unseen within the microchips and software of the
> world's computer systems, could trigger a global catastrophe. The problem
> is technical. Most of us are reluctant to acknowledge how much we depend
> on technology, so political leaders have only recently been persuaded to
> take action.
> Even if we can succeed in overcoming this resistance to accepting the
> problem as serious, the challenge still looms large. It is already too
> late for most developing countries to carry out enough Y2K preparations
> to avoid disruption.
> Instead they should urgently devise contingency plans, identifying
> critical sectors and systems water, power, food, health care,
> telecommunications, transport, finance and trading and checking the bugs
> in them, while preparing backup plans should these systems fail on Jan.
> Estimates of what it will cost to fix the millennium bug worldwide vary
> greatly, but we can get some idea by analyzing what major players have
> earmarked for the task. Chase Manhattan Corp. is spending $363 million,
> and DuPont Co. $400 million, while the U.S. Education Department's
> projected Y2K costs are $45.5 million
> The World Bank, the OECD and a handful of donor countries such as
> Britain, the United States, Canada and Italy, together with other
> multilateral development banks and international private-sector
> organizations, have undertaken an effort to raise Y2K awareness and
> mobilize technical assistance and funds to help developing countries.
> These efforts are extremely modest, given the enormity of the task and
> the global impact of a failure to act. It is now obvious that next Jan. 1
> will unleash a chain of problems that will touch everyone on the planet,
> with the most damaging effects hitting the least prepared, namely,
> governments and businesses providing services to the world's poor.
> Efforts by the World Bank, the United Nations and others can support some
> Y2K fixing, but their most important effect should be a wake-up call to
> national and local governments, companies and international organizations
> to get involved in preemptive action now.
> Developing countries must devise contingency plans for those vital
> systems that are not yet Y2K-immune.
> The writer, coordinator of year 2000 operational initiatives at the World
> Bank, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.
> Bob Olsen, Toronto [log in to unmask]