Date: Thu, 20 Aug 98 15:36:57 CDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: TECHNOLOGY: Asia Lags in Fixing Millenium Bug, Survey Says
/** ips.english: 456.0 **/
** Topic: TECHNOLOGY: Asia Lags in Fixing Millenium Bug, Survey Says **
** Written 4:05 PM Aug 19, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Asia Lags in Fixing Millenium Bug, Survey Says
By Lazar Bloch, IPS
16 August 1998
NEW YORK, Aug 16 (IPS) - Asian countries face a potentially
ruinous computer breakdown, experts say: if they cannot correct
computer chips to register the year 2000 properly, the advent of
the new millenium could cause glitches in everything from
elevators to stock markets.
The problem of trying to calibrate computer chips and
programmes to read dates correctly following the year 2000 could
be "one of the most complex managerial challenges in history,"
US President Bill Clinton has argued.
Many Asian countries are perilously far behind in preparing for
the Year 2000 bug, according to a recent survey by the US-based
Gartner Group. International policymakers and businesses are
grappling with a problem which, although 16 months off, may be
coming too soon for some countries.
"The Asia and Pacific region has been too slow in getting
prepared for the date that many computer systems cannot handle,"
the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
(ESCAP) said in a report last November.
The Gartner Group survey confirms what many who have been
following the story already knew: Developing nations will suffer
the worst from the bug's consequences. Asia will face unique
obstacles in dealing with the problem effectively, including the
regional economic slowdown since last year.
Hard-hit Southeast Asia, as well as India, China, and Japan,
"all lag (behind) the US by more than twelve months," according
to the Gartner report. Only 50 percent of Japan's businesses will
avoid serious failures, the survey predicts. India and China are
faring even worse, reports Gartner, with two-thirds of their
companies facing the prospect of serious failures.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is reporting similar
findings. The Agency rates Japan, Hong Kong, China, and most other
Pacific Rim countries as "maybe nine to ten months behind in
terms of where the work should be," said Sherry Burns, the head
of the CIA office in charge of studying the issue.
The survey rates 15,000 companies and government agencies in 87
countries in terms of their preparedness in correcting the
millenium bug. With only 16 months to go, the Gartner survey
contends, 23 percent of companies worldwide have yet to begin
dealing with the issue.
According to the Gartner survey, the United States is one of the
leading countries in preparedness for dealing with the bug, along
with Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and Sweden. Even
in these countries, however, many experts believe that some
companies will be forced to accept losses as the deadline looms,
and technology and skilled programmers become scarcer.
The computer bug, called 'Y2K' by experts, results when
computer chips and programmes which read dates in two-digit dates
are confronted with the change in millenium. If those chips and
programmes are not reprogrammed in time to read years from 2000
onward, computer technicians believe many will read the year as
1900 - or crash altogether.
That flaw can create huge problems in a variety of systems,
ranging from elevators to air-traffic control systems to automatic
invoicing programmes, experts say. Some even predict a global
recession as a result of the bug, although projections range from
a minor economic slowdown to total global collapse.
Not all Asian countries are necessarily in as great a danger as
the Gartner study indicates. Some countries such as Laos, Vietnam,
Cambodia, Burma, and India, may face fewer Y2K-related
difficulties, because they are only newly computerised. This means
that their computer systems are newer and therefore proportionally
better equipped to handle any glitches resulting from the change
of millenium, said Howard Tsu of the US-based International Data
Corporation's (IDC's) Hong Kong office.
India may also be in a unique position to deal with the Y2K
bug, because of its capacity to devote relatively large human and
software resources to the project. Some local analysts are even
predicting a Y2K-related boom in the region as skilled Indian
programmers export their skills throughout Asia.
For the most part, however, Asian companies are finding it
difficult to garner the resources to fix the bug. Especially in
Southeast Asia, "many people are thinking 'Hey, my business has
got to get through the next six months, then I can start thinking
about the year 2000 problem'," Mac Jeffery of IBM Asia Pacific
told USA Today.
Local policymakers are struggling to help their companies keep
up, but are finding it difficult due to their limited financial
resources. Governments in Singapore and Taiwan are offering loans
to small businesses, so that they can develop programmes to deal
with the problem; but in many other countries, the public sector
has little to offer. In a more typical case, the Thai government
recently had to slash its Y2K programmes in half following the
year-long financial crisis in East Asia.
Most disturbing from the global perspective is Japan's response
to the crisis. While many Japanese companies are attempting to
address the problem, some Western experts are saying that many
Japanese programmers are not spending enough time running vital
trial-and-error tests to determine the effectiveness of
Other factors are slowing the response in Japan, and in other
Asian countries. Many of these countries' companies are still
unclear about the nature of the problem, and think that it will
not effect them, because they do not operate their day-to-day
business on the Gregorian calendar - and thus do not have a change
in millenium coming their way.
In Japan, for example, many companies operate on the nation's
Imperial Calendar, which starts over with each new emperor.
Although these companies' invoices, and other paperwork, is
dated by these traditional calendars, their computer systems are
still as vulnerable as Westerners' because the operational
language the computer uses is based on the Gregorian calendar.
"Deep in the core operating system, the machine knows it's 1998 -
it's just recalculated," said Jeffery.
The financial sector, including banking, insurance, and investing
firms, has generally taken the lead on this problem globally, and
this trend has carried through to Asia as well, according to the
Gartner Group report. A Merrill Lynch report also found that "a
majority of (Asian banking) institutions under our coverage are
expecting to be compliant by the end of the year (1998)."
"There is a generally accepted approach called triage. We will
save some, stabilise some, and give up on others," said David
Tickner, programme manager of Digital Equipment's Year 2000
programme, on the station CNET's website. (end/ips/lb-fah/98)
[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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