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Survey: Britain not ready for Y2K

A majority of British IT professionals believe that many firms will fall short of completing proper Year 2000 compliance testing.

    A majority of British IT professionals believe that many organizations will fall short of completing proper Year 2000 compliance testing before December 31, 1999.

    Independent London-based research firm Metrica Research Limited found in a study released this week that the vast majority of organizations in finance and retail/wholesale are "totally confident" that all of their IT systems will be Year 2000 compliant and fully tested by 31 December, 1999.

    However, the same is not true for manufacturing, where only half, or 49 percent, are "totally confident" that all of their IT systems will be Year 2000 compliant and fully tested before the new millennium.

    The remainder of the sample in manufacturing show considerable doubt about their Year 2000 plans, with only about one-third, or 31 percent, "fairly confident" that all of their IT systems will be Year 2000 compliant in time.

    The study underscores recent U.S. government concerns that despite its efforts to make its computers systems ready for the Year 2000 and to encourage private businesses to do the same, noncompliant systems in other nations could still compromise the United States' computer systems.

    A Senate committee dedicated to the Y2K technology problem earlier this month examined the potential negative impact of Y2K system failures abroad on the United State's economy, and considered ways in which the government and the private sector could work together to mitigate those risks.

    American financial institutions deal with their international counterparts virtually every minute of the day as they settle transactions, execute currency trades, and operate offices throughout the world. Given this high level of interaction, any significant computer system [crash] abroad could have a devastating impact in the United States.

    The millennium bug or Y2K problem stems from time clocks in computers that recognize years in only two digits and will not be able to differentiate between the years 2000 and 1900.

    Power outages and disruptions to telephone service and other vital services, like financials, could result if the snafus are not fixed on computers that run such systems, critics warn.

    The British study also highlights a growing call on both continents for a Y2K global standard. The computing industry has no standard for Year 2000 compliance, leaving PC makers, consumers, and industry observers worldwide without an accepted definition for what is and is not Y2K compliant.

    According to the British survey, most companies agree that a standard definition is needed.

    The research was conducted using 102 telephone interviews with IT management responsible for Year 2000 projects from the UK's top 2000 companies during June 1998.

    Eighty-two percent of the IT managers interviewed by Metrica believe that many organizations have left too little time to complete proper testing to ensure Year 2000 compliance before the new millennium.

    Manufacturing companies, in particular, are at risk. Just half (49 percent) of the surveyed managers responsible for Year 2000 projects in the manufacturing sector are "totally confident" that all of their IT systems will be ready and fully tested by December 31, 1999, compared with 70 percent in retail/wholesale and 81 percent in finance. Even worse, almost 80 percent believe that some organizations are claiming Year 2000 compliance prematurely.