Y2K Prophet Comes Down from Soapbox

Joe Boivin, who abandoned a promising career in banking to lead a crusade in Canada against the Y2K problem, has climbed down from his soapbox and turned his attention to family matters, admitting the problem was greatly overstated.

"I have disqualified myself from giving any ... advice," he said last week.

"The relief that a global crisis did not occur is tainted by a growing belief that there never was a global crisis, despite the multiple sources of confirmation reports. [It's] sort of like waking up one morning and discovering the Earth is flat."

But Boivin, who founded the Global Millennium Foundation (www.globalmf.org) to fight the Y2K peril, said he found a silver lining in the Y2K cloud. "Y2K is an excellent example of how people from all parts of the world can come together for a common threat. [There's now] a better understanding of the interdependency of the world and the danger of allowing technology to become a life threatening issue for entire nations." He also hailed "the coming together of competitors in similar industries to work together for a common cause."

Boivin left his post as Y2K project manager at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in December 1997 to start - with his own funds - the first national program office for Y2K. The Global Millennium Foundation publicized the threat of Y2K and sponsored industry and government efforts in Canada to tackle the problem.

The foundation published a monthly online newsletter and struck a note of gloom and doom to the end. The November newsletter, the last of 1999, said, "The potential confusion at the turn of the century ... continues to represent an explosive situation. Accidents and mistakes will continue to happen with ever greater frequency."

But in a reversal of position in January, the newsletter said, "Without taking away from the excellent efforts of many people around the world, the actual results suggest there was never a major Y2K risk for infrastructure elements."

It noted however, that "business system results will not surface until later."

Boivin's current assessment stands in marked contrast to that of other Y2K gurus, who continue to insist the crisis was real and extraordinary measures against it appropriate.

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