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1998-01-16 21:59:21


Australian Conference: Bad News All Around



At a conference of IT officers in various governments in Australia, the realization arrived that the country isn't ready. Those who initially said that their departments were in good shape changed their minds by the end of the conference. What is scary is that they had thought they were in good shape. These are the experts who are supposed to know the state of their operations.

This is from Westergaard's Year 2000 site (Jan. 16).

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Recently, the Gartner Group revealed that Australia's progress in fixing the Millennium Bug was lagging behind the US. . . .

Just recently I organised a seminar concerning the Y2K problem with representatives from many local governments in north Queensland. Queensland is in the far north-eastern corner of Australia, some 2000 km from the state capital, Brisbane, and even further from the national capital and other major centres like Sydney and Melbourne. When the meeting began, there was quite a mix of initial reactions. There were those who felt that they had the matter in hand. Others were aware of some compliance problems and had not done anything about it. There were several who had heard about the Y2K problem but didn't know if or how it would affect them.

By the end of the meeting most of the participants were reeling with the enormity of the problem. Even those who felt that they were in control now realised how many other areas they hadn't considered. Most of them didn't have a budget in place to begin the impact analysis process and their next budget wouldn't be available to them until March/April 1998.

What concerned me the most was these were all IT professionals. If they have not full appreciated the crisis then how is the average guy on the street going to understand and act accordingly?

Let's look at the financial institutions . . .The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) found in a recent random test on their personal computers that seven out of eight failed when date simulations beyond January 1, 2000. Even more chilling, in the recent meeting of International Federation of Stock Exchanges in New York, out of 70 stock exchanges represented, only Mr Humphry of ASX and one other international delegate were prepared to speak about their own exchange's readiness. Is that a demonstration of a lack of preparedness at an international level? . . .

As for the general community in Australia, the grasp of the problem is poor. While large organizations such as utilities, financial institutions and telecommunications are right in the midst of Y2K remediation, many medium to small sized businesses and private individuals are still in a state of ignorance or at best denial that there is a problem. What they don't know is that outside consultants may not be available to them by the time they want to do something about it. Big players have the foresight and the resources to recruit these consultants for their know-how and services. Many have already been absorbed into the system. The other smaller players will be left holding the time bomb with no one left to defuse it for them. . . .

This educational process and awareness arousal of the problem has not been taken up by the influential and resourceful agencies. It is a relief to see that the Australian Federal Government, in a joint effort with the state of New South Wales, has set up an informative web site. It provides a very valuable resource for the nation. In one of its latest postings, there is a report from the Auditor General who was charged to look into the status of the Y2K preparedness amongst the government agencies. The report is grim.


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