Computer date problems pale next to those posed by embedded systems found in common equipment such as telephones, air conditioning, signaling and manufacturing machinery.
That is the warning given by Graeme Inchley, who has just accepted the onerous task of project managing the $5 million dollar federal government drive to wake business and the community up to year 2000 date change problems.
The real issue is the knock-on effect of seemingly small millennium date problems, according to the former MD of Intellect and Novell. "Processes rely on one another through cause and effect. If one breaks down, it could cause a multitude of problems which in turn cause other problems."
In addition, breakdown of a critical system such as hospital air conditioning or a rail signaling could cause damage before the problem was even discovered, Inchley says.
"What we have to do now is look at what could go wrong and make sure it does not happen."
Inchley expects the project -- which is still in its early days -- to take the form of a three-pronged attack on complacency by raising awareness; directing people to available resources; and further down the track, promoting risk management and crisis contingency planning.
Inchley also wants his message to reach those claiming the millennium problem is a cash driven beat-up. "We don't want to cause panic but real concern and a sense of urgency," he said.
Inchley is now putting a small project team together to help implement the strategy, which will be overseen by a steering committee, chaired by Stock Exchange chairman, Maurice Newman.
"For me, this is not an IT role. This is a communication exercise to the community and to industry in the broadest sense," said Inchley.
The committee so far includes representatives from the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the Business Council of Australia (BCA), the Australian Chanber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and a representative from each state government.
The committee will also draw expertise from other sectors including small business, emergency services and the banking community, according to AIIA executives.