Gartner: The world is getting ready for Y2K

Some countries are reporting such remarkable progress in year 2000 remediation in order to allay concerns of trading partners that their assessments shouldn't be believed, according to market researcher GartnerGroup.

For its final World Status report regarding preparations globally for the year 2000 computer problem, Gartner found that "many countries and industry sectors appear to show a level of progress in three months that it took others a year or more to achieve," according to Gartner's most recent assessment, released yesterday and outlined during a press conference.

"The level of self-reporting bias has escalated to the point at which self reporting has become less reliable," the report said. "The effect is particularly noticeable in the developing world, where GartnerGroup analysts have become aware through many other sources of the sudden engagement of governments and trade associations that have realised that developed trading partners are likely to scale back operations where there was seen to be little willingness to tackle the problem."

However, Gartner researchers also found "remarkably, no longer are there any countries that have made no remediation at all. Every government covered in the report has made some compliance effort." Overall, countries and industries globally have made good progress and Gartner analysts remain "cautiously optimistic" about how the world's computers will handle the date change.

For the final assessment, Gartner took into account the underlying dependence on technology, energy and trade in various countries. The research considered a variety of indicators for possible risk, including IT spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), electricity and energy consumption, number of computers and telephone lines per 100 inhabitants and the ratio of trade-to-GDP, among other assessments.

Based on that analysis, Gartner found that Russia has the highest risk for year 2000 failures, said Lou Marcoccio, vice president of Gartner's year 2000 research. India is in second place for risk, followed by a cluster of countries including Venezuela, Norway, Japan, Taiwan, Finland and "even the U.S., for that matter" because of its reliance on technology, energy and trade, he said.

Parts of China, including Hong Kong and the city of Shanghai, have made "tremendous progress," he said, noting that Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark and parts of western Europe continue to make significant strides toward year 2000 remediation. Germany, which had been a laggard, has "basically at this point nearly caught up to France and a number of large countries in western Europe, " Marcoccio said. "That's exceptional news and exceptionally good news."

Argentina, Mexico, Indonesia and Hungary, by comparison, are less dependent on technology, communications, energy and trade and so are, therefore, at less risk.

The flow of products traded with countries deemed most at risk is likely to be imperilled as a result of the year 2000 computer problem, Marcoccio said, suggesting that all it takes to assess likely problems is to look at the countries and think about what goods come from them.

The year 2000 computer problem is occurring because most older software code was written with a two-digit date field that might interpret the "00" in 2000 as "1900" and therefore fail to make correct calculations. The effect of that could be anything from relatively minor glitches to system crashes.

Computer failures because of the date change will increase in the fourth quarter of this year, Marcoccio said, noting that's in part because there will be as many as 800 times more transactions in that quarter that deal with 2000 dates. Failures will continue to increase, peaking with the actual date change on January 1, 2000, and continuing for months after.

"Failures will continue to occur through all of 2000," Marcoccio said, adding that the number of failures won't diminish appreciably until the third quarter of next year and that some will occur into 2001.

In terms of specific industries, health care, oil, semiconductor and retail all have shown significant improvements, as have chemical processing and the airlines, Marcoccio said. The hotel and entertainment industries continue to lag, as do medical and law offices.

Remediation isn't foolproof, however. Gartner estimates that 5 percent to 9 percent of code will still be defective even after remediation and testing.

Next year, Gartner expects failures will continue to occur because of defective code, as well as because applications will freeze the first time they try to run in 2000. Noncompliant packaged software on the market will also be a problem, as will running of noncompliant archived data on compliant systems, and running code that wasn't adequately tested.

"A complete cycle covering most transactions will take most of one full year to complete, so it will take one full year to uncover most code and data defects," according to a statement released by Gartner yesterday detailing highlights of the findings.

Additional details and an updated assessment of remediation by country and industry will be provided by Gartner during its upcoming Symposium/ITxpo conference, Oct. 11-15 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Marcoccio will offer an update on what is likely to occur on January 1 and also will provide suggestions for what the general public should do to prepare.

"When you're talking about the US, panic is going to be a key contributor issue when it comes to what happens, especially around Janueary 1," he said yesterday.

Some shortages of perishable food, batteries, flashlights and the like will occur regionally just as happens during storms, "only we're having a global storm," he said, noting that because January 1 falls on a Saturday, some countries will celebrate the holiday the day before, while others celebrate the following Monday.

Although there won't be real shortages of heating oil and gasoline, for instance, people deciding to fill fuel tanks in their homes and cars will lead to localised shortages, Marcoccio said.

A spate of films are expected to be released toward the end of the year in which disaster scenarios related to January 1 are key to the plots and those are likely to cause some panic, he said. Also problematic could be computer viruses that some miscreants have said they will unleash around January 1.

In terms of real computer failures, though, Marcoccio said that he expects that at least in the US that the date change will pass relatively unnoticed, with problems related to panic causing turmoil. However, "I think the panic is going to be much less," he said, adding that he expects utilities and banks will step up efforts to educate the public and to allay fears.

Gartner analysts do not think there will be a global recession as a result of the year 2000 computer problem, Marcoccio said.

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