Industry to play crucial role in Y2K assessments

Companies operating the United States' key infrastructures - finance, utilities and transportation - will play an unprecedented role over New Year's weekend in helping the White House collect and assess Y2K incident reports.

These companies have formed extensive, voluntary networks through their respective industry trade associations to share information about year 2000 incidents and system problems, according to trade association and government officials.

Their purpose is twofold. The industry networks will keep the White House posted on the status of their respective industries. But Y2K information will also be shared among participating companies, giving information technology managers a heads-up to potential Y2K-related system problems and fixes.

For instance, US government and private-sector officials will be eagerly watching whether US oil firms operating in New Zealand - one of the first regions to see the new year, at 7am Eastern Standard Time December 31 - will be affected by the date change.

Firms operating in this region will share technical data about their systems - along with reports of any Y2K disruptions outside their gates, such as power failures - with oil industry experts stationed at a desk at the US Department of Energy.

"For our members, what goes on in Australia and New Zealand is just as relevant as anything that happens to their assets here in the US," said Kendra Martin, CIO and Y2K project director at the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, which is spearheading the oil industry's data-collection effort.

This data will be shared with other companies, but it will also be analyzed for trends that may reveal Y2K anomalies, said Martin. Oil industry and other trade groups will send this information, along with an assessment as to whether it will affect consumers, to the White House's $US50 million Y2K Information Coordination Centre. There, White House Y2K czar John Koskinen, along with about 200 federal workers, will assemble this data into a picture of Y2K's impact worldwide.

In many respects, what the trade groups and companies will be doing over New Year's is a continuation of their ongoing Y2K information-sharing efforts. Many companies have already been exchanging Y2K "best practices," test data and vendor information, said Cathy Hotka, vice president of IT at the National Retail Federation in Washington.

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