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1998-06-02 21:32:06


South Africa Parrots Party Line: Small Government at Risk



The Party Line on y2k is this: small businesses are at risk, and small governments are at risk, but the big, powerful, Establishment organizations will make it. This is whistling past the graveyard.

The reverse is true. Those outfits that never computerized, or that use simple micros (preferably Macintoshes) are more likely to survive. The big outfits are dinosaurs.

This press report is especially telling in its complete reversal of reality: "These smaller companies rely on personal computers which are a potential problem because they could be using non-compliant hardware and software, which is still being sold." Right. The problem is microcomputers. Mainframes will be just fine because big outfits own them.

We are seeing the dying gasp of the myth of the centralized State and its bloated clients. They have less than two years to go. They are still proclaiming victory.

This is from the Johannesburg ELECTRONIC MAIL & GUARDIAN (April 13).

* * * * * * * * *

OCAL GOVERNMENT structures together with small and medium businesses have emerged as high-risk areas most likely to be affected by the year 2 000 computer bug, according to preliminary results of a government survey.

The survey, instituted by communications minister Jay Naidoo, has also found that major financial institutions and corporations are already dealing with the year 2 000 problem. The glitch, known as Y2K, is forecast to occur at midnight on December 31 1999, when computers' internal clocks fail to recognise the change of centuries from 1900 to 2000. Computer experts have warned of economic and social chaos if computers are not reprogrammed, or made compliant with Y2K hardware and software.

The survey, which forms the first part of the government's action plan to cope with Y2K, found local authority structures the engine room of local government at high risk if precautionary measures are not taken soon.

"Small and medium enterprises in most cases are not too aware of the problem and don't have the resources to deal with it," says the head of a government task team, Mohamed Madhi.

Mahdi is the chief executive of a section 21 company, the National Year 2000 Decision Board Centre, formed by the government to act as a co-ordinating body to monitor compliance and give business, government departments and parastatals advice. The government's action plan is on track, he says. . . .

The task team this week called for nominations for people to serve on the seven sub-committees, which fall under its auspices. It will be their task to ensure compliance in the government, the financial sector, parastatals, the information technology sector, as well as among industrial and other computer users.

But computer experts warned last year in December, when Naidoo announced the action plan, that it may be a case of too little too late.

Says Professor Ken MacGregor, of the University of Cape Town's computer science department: "It would have been a good start two years ago.". . .

These smaller companies rely on personal computers which are a potential problem because they could be using non-compliant hardware and software, which is still being sold. The computer industry source said these smaller businesses tend to see Y2K as big business's concern, because the bug is thought to be a mainframe problem. But, if they are affected, it could cripple their operations and bankrupt them.


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