US Senate paints mixed Y2K picture

As the year 2000 countdown last Wednesday ticked passed the 100-day point, US Congress' assessment of global preparedness gave the United States a qualified thumbs-up, while warning of almost certain breakdowns abroad.

The US Senate Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem last week issued its 100-day report, rating the preparedness of major domestic sectors and foreign countries.

The report dismisses both positive and negative extremes among year 2000 scenarios.

However, disruptions were termed inevitable and the quality of information available deemed low in light of self-reporting practices and poor compliance with disclosure requirements.

Within the US, the committee rated highest the readiness of financial services, utilities, and telecommunications sectors.

Business, transportation, and government services were assigned middling marks, with health care rated a relatively high risk.

Concerns were raised about oil and gas companies and nuclear power plants, many of which have pencilled-in eleventh-hour completion dates for their preparations.

Flags were also raised over the readiness of small- and medium-sized businesses, physicians' offices, inner city and rural hospitals, and nursing homes, along with local governments, and the education sector in the United States.

Among global regions, Eastern Europe is at most risk of hitting the new year unprepared, with Latin America and Africa rating worse than average in this regard, the report states.

Asia and Western Europe rate average risks of not addressing the problem in time, according to the report.

The Senate Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem was formed in April 1998 and is slated to disband next February.

Drawing on a wide variety of US and international sources, including government agencies, professional groups, the United Nations, consulting firms, and the Executive branch, the bulletin is an update of the committee's February year 2000 report.

In another study released last Wednesday, market researcher Cap Gemini America reported that most of the large US companies expect to safely weather the date change, even with some noncompliant systems. Eighty-two per cent of the respondents to Cap Gemini's latest survey of IT directors and managers at US corporations said they do not expect noncompliant systems to pose a significant business risk.

However, the same percentage reported having already experienced a year 2000-related failure, of which a significant 44 per cent were attributed to systems that presumably had been remediated. Ninety-five per cent of the date-field errors affected financial information, 92 per cent were characterised as processing disruptions, 36 per cent logistics and supply chain-related, and 33 per cent customer service related, according to the Cap Gemini report.

Overall, 56 per cent of the survey's respondents expect all of their critical systems to be year 2000-compliant by the end of the year; 38 per cent expect 76 per cent to 99 per cent of their key systems to comply; and 6 per cent anticipate having half to three-fourths squared away by then, according to the report.

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