Y2K OK, but contingency planning causes concern

Australian businesses have made significant progress in year 2000 remediation projects since October 1998, according to a report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

However, the level of contingency planning and continuity projects under way in the business community is raising concerns.

The ABS yesterday released the preliminary results of its second and final survey into the year 2000 readiness of Australian businesses. In June, 13,000 small, medium and large organisations were surveyed for the research.

The number of businesses completing all year 2000 work and testing increased from 10 per cent in October 1998 to 35 per cent in June 1999, the report showed.

Businesses within the finance and insurance sector reported the highest completion rate with 62 per cent of organisations already completed work.

The utilities sector reported the highest level of work under way or planned.

Speaking at yesterday's survey release, Maurie Newman, chairman of the federal government's year 2000 national steering committee, said the results of the survey were encouraging but businesses still need work hard in the contingency planning area.

"Australia's best chance of moving towards year 2000 compliance has been that businesses would share information," Newman said.

"The year 2000 Information Disclosure Act and equivalent states' legislation has created an environment in which this exchange of information can, and is, taking place."

Newman said he remains "concerned" over the "low proportion" of contingency planning under way.

"I think there is a lot more to be done in the business continuity area," he said.

"Complacency has no place in Australian Y2K preparations. Contingency planning and continuity need to be our number one priority."

According to the survey in June 1999, 24 per cent of respondents had finalised or intend to have contingency plans in place for year 2000 problems. This is an increase from 14 per cent in October 1998.

Graeme Inchley, CEO of the Year 2000 Industry Program, said the millennium problem is "not just about a Y2K technical issue", and business contingency plans are more than just a year 2000 problem.

Senator Ian Campbell, secretary to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and Arts, said the survey results held "some positive messages and . . . some warnings".

Campbell, who is holding a roundtable on the year 2000 problem and trading partners today in Canberra, urged businesses not taking action to at least check supply chains and trading partners.

"I ask all of them to look very closely at their dependencies," he said.

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