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World Bank offers grant for Y2K fix

An adjunct of the World Bank is offering the $250,000 grant to any organization with a fix for the Y2K problems developing countries can expect to face.

If you're an organization with a solid plan to fix the Year 2000 computer problem, you could be eligible for a $250,000 grant from the World Bank.

However, you'll have to be willing to share that idea with rest of the world.

The InfoDev (information for development program), an adjunct of the World Bank, is offering the grant to any organization with a fix for the Year 2000 problems developing countries can expect to face. Next Friday is the deadline to submit proposals.

According to program coordinators, the grant is just one piece of a larger plan to develop a Year 2000 tool kit for World Bank client states that don?t have the financial means to develop and implement their own Y2K programs.

"The millennium problem has been identified as a major problem around the world," InfoDev coordinator Marysue Shore said. "The countries we are addressing here just don?t have the proper funds to implement a program to fix the problem."

The grant winner will create a toolkit and provide content for a Web-based dissemination campaign to raise governments' and the industry's awareness about the Y2K problem in developing countries. The toolkit will provide information to help government officials identify the dimensions of their Y2K problem. It also will serve as a reference for management of the issue, including strategies for crisis management of policy and fiscal planning, as well as guidelines on selecting and engaging a contractor who may provide assistance and verifying that contractor's work.

The Year 2000 bug's roots are in antiquated hardware and software formats that denote years in two-digit formats, such as 98 for 1998 and 99 for 1999. The glitch will occur after the year turns over to 2000, when computers are fooled into thinking the year is 1900. The glitch could throw out of whack everything from bank balances to elevator maintenance to building security procedures.

The World Bank, as well as other global financial institutions, have sounded the alarm recently for global initiatives to address the problem which observers say could, if not taken care of, threaten the world banking system.

In November, officials from the U.S. Federal Reserve said they fear regional economic issues may distract European and Asian banks from dealing with a "millennium time bomb" threatening financial institutions everywhere. (See related story)

Although she couldn?t identify specific regions, or countries, at "this stage," Shore said all of World Bank?s underdeveloped nations risk not being able to handle the Y2K bug in time.

Estimates released this week by two developed countries help to scope out the size of the Y2K problem. The Australian government faces an unbudgeted $2 billion bill to fix millennium bug software problems on personal computers, according to the U.K. Government's adviser on Y2K issues for personal computers, as reported by the Australian Financial Review. And the Financial Times today reported that the U.K. government could spend upwards of $694 million to fix its systems.