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United Nations hosts Y2K forum

The meeting marks the first time such a group has gathered to discuss the bug and will address a number of international concerns about the impact of the Y2K glitch.

NEW YORK--The Clinton administration's point man on the Year 2000 technology problem joined ambassadors of the United Nations here today to kick off a global forum on the millennium glitch.

The meeting marks the first time such an international group has gathered to discuss the issue, and will address a number of international concerns about the impact of the Y2K glitch on national economies, financial markets, developing countries, and civil services.

Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion is attending the two-day event, along with Ahmad Kamal, Pakistan's ambassador to the UN and chairman of the UN Economic and Social Council's Informatics Working Group.

"The Y2K problem is not a problem for any country by itself," said Koskinen at a press conference at the Foreign Press Club in Manhattan. "All of us are dependent on each other," and will have to work together, "and agree on how we will organize on a regional and international level."

Kamal defended the timing of the forum. "It is a problem that we are discovering the complex and magnitude as we go. No one knew just five years ago," what we know now. "If we had known all along that it was more than just a legacy systems problem then why didn't we do more than we have with the desktop? Let's not look behind to the past. Let's look at what we can do and do the maximum."

The Year 2000 problem, also known as the millennium bug, stems from an old programming shortcut that used only the last two digits of the year. Many computers now must be modified or they may mistake the year 2000 for the year 1900 or may not be able to function at all, causing widespread disruptions in services in the transportation, financial, utility, and public safety sectors, observers warn.

Back to Year 2000 Index Page The exchange of experiences and "frank assessments of national preparedness" are closed to the press, but documents from the meeting will be publicly available tomorrow afternoon, the organization stated.

Also attending the event are Y2K experts from the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Telecommunications Union, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Joint Year 2000 Council, and the International Technology Association of America, as well as permanent representatives of missions to the United Nations. More than 80 national Y2K coordinators have confirmed attendance.

"National infrastructure is dependent on international compliance of the Year 2000," said Don Cruickshank, chairman of Action 2000, the United Kingdom national campaign on Y2K.

Kamal said the interest by UN member states and others outside of the UN community surprised him. "About 120 member states, or two-thirds of the UN, will be sending people to attend," he said.

The meeting will include expert reports on: banking and finance; telecommunications; nuclear power; oil and gas; shipping and ports; and aviation. There will also be an exchange of viewpoints on contingency planning and crisis management, followed by a discussion of international strategy.

Kamal said the reason the meeting will be closed to the press is to encourage frank discussion. "We were afraid that with the press included some of the laggard countries, [those falling behind in their Y2K efforts] wouldn't speak as freely."