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1997-11-08 13:18:19


European Agences: Near Paralysis on Y2K -- Doing Nothing



International agencies are way behind in y2k awareness, let alone actual repairs. But the US government is doing little to warn them to speed up the repairs. This was the testimony of Harris Miller, president of the InformationTechnology Association of America (ITAA). He testified on November 4 to the House Subcommittee on Technology. He painted a grim picture.

The organizations he discusses are tied into Europe's trans-national governmental structure. They seem to be asleep at the wheel.

* * * * * *

If we are to have a fighting chance in making this global correction, international organizations must play a critical "force multiplier" role in leveraging the work taking place around the world. President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Secretary of State Albright, Secretary of Commerce Daley and others within the U.S. government should be using the power of their high office to press for this goal. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case.  

Instead, leading international organizations are literally just starting their Year 2000 programs -- no thanks to the U.S. government it would seem. The European Commission, for instance, began a series of workshops on this issue last month. We applaud the desire of the EC to open this dialogue with industry, first with banking and insurance firms and, last week, with major IT companies and customers. The active involvement of the Commission can help its member states identify key governance issues, share critical benchmark information, perhaps even work towards the transborder system testing that must take place to assure the unimpeded flow of European commerce. 

Under normal circumstances, we would wish the EC godspeed. With so many of our members represented in European markets, clearly our fate is bound up in theirs. While any start is better than no start at all, we remain concerned that the Year 2000 risks in Europe have grown substantially as the result of delay. To make matters worse, crisp, decisive EC action is by no means assured. As you know, the Commission has carefully circumscribed authority to effect legislative or regulatory changes within its member states. Today, it remains unclear what economic functions require a multilateral response. For instance, so-called "street-wide" testing of banking systems clearly needs to be done; whether this activity needs to be done on a Pan European level or in some larger international aggregate is an open issue. And, if the latter proves correct, what body makes this determination? We hope that the EC will move quickly to sort through these issues and will rapidly establish mechanisms to help its members build awareness, take effective action and avoid duplication.  

If the European Commission is just finding its footing on this critical issue, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is acting as if there is no issue at all. The OECD is a policy organization which is composed of the 29 most economically developed, technologically advanced countries in the world. OECD seeks member consensus on a range of vital international economic issues, including science and technology, international financial and fiscal policies, environment and social concerns. Our understanding from OECD officials is that the Year 2000 is not even on their list of priorities, with no member state—which includes our own -- coming forward to lobby for its inclusion. Here is also an opportunity for the U.S. to demonstrate its global leadership by prodding this influential group to take up the Year 2000 issue without delay. . . .

For those which have started, we found it interesting that many of the polled executives expressed significant skepticism about the nature of their governments’ Year 2000 efforts. One executive indicated that beyond the creation of a blue ribbon panel, his government has displayed no leadership and that progress is "painfully slow." The executives rank the issue as low on the government list of priorities. One said that Year 2000 is considered by government "an irritant rather than a threat." This executive said, "Personally, I am very, very worried indeed. Most departments and agencies are in analysis paralysis…and these are the good ones."


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