Planning, Hard Work Limit Effect of Y2K Bug

The much feared, but thus far toothless Y2K computer bug, has taken a small bite out of certain international entities, including Web sites, commodities, the Pakistan stock exchange, Ghana and a U.S.

Department of Defense spy satellite.

However, after the first weekend of monitoring the transition to the Year 2000 in South Africa, critical sectors reported no severe disruptions in electric power, telephones, banking, health and emergency services, water and sewerage, and transportation.

Automated teller machines, airplanes, military systems, and other highly technologically dependent devices continued to operate as if nothing had changed. What's more, neither Telkom nor Eskom reported any problems in their systems. Transnet and its subsidiaries, Spoornet, Portnet and Metrorail also reported no disruptions.

The Banking Response Centre, jointly managed by the SA Reserve Bank and Banking Council, reported that all 57 registered banks declared that their systems were operating normally. SARS also reported no problems with the roll-over. Despite the lack of reported Year 2000-related incidents in SA, the full scope of the Y2K problem may not be known for days or even months, as data is accessed at different levels throughout systems.

"Nothing detrimental took place during the roll-over period, but we'll continue monitoring the situation over the coming weeks," says Peter Ewart-Brookes, head of the Y2K Centre Status Watch. "We urge businesses to ensure their continuity plans will protect them against potential problems that could emerge in the coming weeks."

He adds that the next major tester will take place at the end of the month when companies will be performing month-end financials, and on Feb. 29, leap-year day.

According to Tsietsi Maleho, Y2K Centre CEO, only minor glitches were reported in the southern hemisphere. Maleho attributes the success of the Y2K transition to the co-operation between the private sector and government, the sharing of information between countries that encountered the Y2K roll-over before SA, as well as initiatives through the U.N.

Despite extensive reports of a total collapse of some Ghanaian systems, Maleho is adamant that these reports are false. "Not a single African country was hit by the Y2K bug. There were minor glitches, but nothing significant took place.

"What's more, the Gartner Group rated certain African countries as non-compliant prior to the roll-over, yet not a single country experienced a major problem," he maintains. On the international front, while some Web sites and billing systems passed the roll-over from 1999 to the year 2000 without system shutdowns, a few pesky glitches and technological hiccups are displaying the new year as anything from 3900 to 19200.

Game-maker Nintendo revealed major Web-related woes when the official Pokemon Web site displayed the year as 3900 when viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer. The date discrepancy was not, however, displayed for Netscape users.

According to a Microsoft source, the year 3900 glitch was caused by a defect in the way Explorer renders JavaScript. In some cases, Y2K-related errors occurred on aviation Web sites, where Year 2000 readiness was reputed to be of prime concern. Auckland International Airport's Y2K update news page declared that the airport is operating as usual. Too bad the site was dated Jan. 1, 100.

In China, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, a customer returning a video was fined the equivalent of $7,000 because the store's computer thought it was 100 years overdue. The Journal, citing an Information Ministry official, also reported that Korea University sent out graduation certificates dated Jan. 13, 1900.

The London Independent reported that a man in Germany logged onto his home banking computer account to find that he had the equivalent of $6.8 million extra in his account -- the transaction date was Dec. 30, 1899. It is not known whether he gets to keep the cash.

In Naples, Italy, certain prisoners had their jail sentences increased by 100 years while others had 100 years knocked off theirs, forcing court officials to close administrative offices while the problems were rectified. Over the next few weeks, we'll be waiting with bated breath for the next big test. The success of the Y2K roll-over, although misunderstood by the general public, can surely be attributed to the time and effort put in by global IT departments.

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