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1998-05-28 13:51:16


United Nations Responds to Y2K: Committees Formed



Yes, the United Nations has committees. It will soon have more committees. Reports have been written. Soon, more reports will be written.

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November 1997

What is the Year 2000 Challenge?

During the course of the present year, attention of the United Nations has been drawn by the ECOSOC Working Group on Informatics to the urgency of addressing the "Year 2000 Challenge". Knowledgeable analysts have cautioned that the problem has enormous implications for organizations which have computerized their activities, particularly applications which are related to financial transactions. . . .

The way informaton systems might react on 1st January 2000 varies considerably. Some systems may not be able to cope and will simply shut down, while others may continue to function, but produce erroneous results. The latter case is particularily dangerous, since the results of false calculations might not be detected until cumulating damage is done to other critical data. . . .

In the United Nations, substantive areas (such as those which process statistical data) could be severely hampered if the computerized applications were not made year 2000 compliant. According to analysts who have examined the year 2000 problem in depth, there is an urgent need to address the challenge immediately, rather than waiting for problems to manifest themselves. . . .

The need for the United Nations to take an active role in making governments aware of the problem was raised in a letter to the Secretary-General from a high-ranking representative of a Member government. As a result the ECOSOC Working Group on Informatics has also expressed the wish to further advise Member States of the advisability of taking action now to make computer applications year 2000 compliant. A number of non-governmental organizations have also stressed the importance of a global awareness of year 2000 issues. . . .

Responsibility for year 2000 compliance was first discussed in the inter-departmental Information Technology Co-ordinating Committee (ITCC) early this year, with the Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) acting as the executing office to address year 2000 issues. In August 1997, a questionnaire was sent out to each United Nations department and office requesting system managers to identify all critical computerized applications, and to report on whether or not the system was year 2000 compliant.

The results of the survey indicated that all major computer applications which are operated by the United Nations are either year 2000 compliant now or will be so in sufficient time to present no problem to system users. . . .

The survey revealed that there are still a number of older mainframe (legacy) systems which are still in use which are not year 2000 compliant. However, respondents replied that these legacy systems will either be modified to be year 2000 compliant or will be upgraded to run on more current computers, during which time the software will be modified to ensure compliance. . . .

The ECOSOC Working Group is likely to adopt a programme to encourage Member States which have not already begun year 2000 assessment to take aggressive action in the development of strategic plans to deal with year 2000 problems. Member States which are participating actively in the discussions of the Working Group are in a position to forward relevant Year 2000 information and guidelines home to capitals for dissemination in the home country. The United Nations Internet Web site could also be used to house Web pages and references to other sites regarding Year 2000 issues.

It is hoped that, with additional efforts in this area, that computerized applications in the United Nations System, and those in Member States will reach Year 2000 compliance well before any serious problems are experienced. The Secretariat is prepared to continue its co-ordinative work in this area, encouraging the adoption of Year 2000 strategies and guidelines, and monitoring the progress of efforts in this critical area. Additional reports on the Year 2000 challenge will be issued as warranted. . . .

Annex B. Note to United Nations Departments and Offices Regarding the Year 2000 Challenge. Information Circular (draft)

To: All United Nations Staff From: The Assistant-Secretary-General for Central Support Services Subject: Advice to Managers of Computerized Applications Regarding the Year 2000.

The Year 2000 Problem

1. I would like to advise all managers of computer applications of the need to address the "Year 2000 Challenge." . . .

I would strongly suggest that each department and office make a thorough inventory of its computerized applications to determine whether or not each and every application is year 2000 compliant. Sample data involving dates beyond 1999 should be input and tested to determine if problems exist. If a problem exists, the Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) of the Office of Central Support Services is available to advise offices on steps to be taken to correct system problems.


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