IT's triumph in euroland

The French say "your-roe," the Germans "oi-roh" and the Italians, well, they stretch it out to "eh-or-roh." Despite the linguistic differences among the 12 member countries of the European Union that have opted to ditch their national currencies in favor of the euro, it's surprising how little fuss and bother accompanied the EU's brand-new, state-of-the-art money.

Shops and ATMs are plentifully stocked with the rather bland-looking coins and notes, while most consumers seem happy to patiently work through this experiment in economic togetherness.

Underlying the dramatic shift across the European continent is a great appreciation for IT and the role it has played in making the gradual transition smooth and free of anxiety. Banks, post offices (stamps are quoted in both national currencies and euros for the time being) and most retail establishments have converted their inventory, accounting and payment systems to euros, making this final move into consumers' pocketbooks an inconvenience rather than something to obsess about. A few notable glitches occurred, of course, but most people here seem to be making the shift to new money rather effortlessly.

The euro's success on the street proves how much faith people have in the IT infrastructure that keeps their everyday lives humming. Mario Di Desidero, a lawyer from Lanciano, a small town in eastern Italy, explains that people are conditioned to seeing euro conversions on bank and credit card statements, so the appearance of euro currency seems natural.

IT operations have run so well during the conversion which lasts until the end of February, when only the euro will be accepted that people have displayed a complacency that would surprise most IT managers with memories of pre-Y2k panic. In Rome, shopkeeper Umberto Dell'Omo at the Piazza Alessandria cheerfully quotes prices of oranges and lettuce in lira and euros. In Paris, it's chic to pay in euros and retro to handle francs.

On second thought, maybe it was the public's memory of IT's nearly effortless handling of Y2k that has made it so calm.

The Europeans have done us a favor, reawakening our faith and hope in IT's capabilities. At the very least, it offers a good reason to install new keyboards with the euro symbol. But if you're concerned about high-tech crackers using their prowess to exploit the transition, consider this: In Sardinia, thieves used a backhoe to haul away an entire ATM stuffed with e10,000. How old-fashioned.

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