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1998-01-07 19:09:12


A Disaster in the Making, Says Robin Guenier



Robin Guenier, who will run Britain's Taskforce 2000 until it runs out of money in February, has issued a public letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair. It is to the point: this will be a monumental crisis if it is not solved.

Will it be solved? Not at the present rate, he says.

This was published in COMPUTERWORLD (Jan 8).

* * * * * * *

The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair MP

Prime Minister

10, Downing Street


6 January 1998

Dear Prime Minister,

Recent announcements that you are to use the UK's presidency of the European Union to highlight the need for action on the so-called Millennium Bomb and to get personally involved in raising the profile of the issue across the British economy are welcome. Taskforce 2000 has been pressing for these and other initiatives for months and it is most encouraging that our message is being heard.

However, I believe that Government is underestimating the seriousness of this extraordinary problem. This is especially true of the vast effort needed, throughout the entire economy, to resolve it. It is wholly unprecedented -- and must be achieved within a desperately short timescale. Yet computing has a dreadful record of missed deadlines. And it is particularly worrying that the resource needed for a comprehensive solution is far greater than can be made available.

There are now less than 12 months left to complete the greater part of this immense task. Yet current surveys show that not nearly enough is being done -- by large and small organisations in both the public and private sectors. It is a frightening challenge. Many of us had hoped the Government would have put the problem high on its agenda last year. Unfortunately, that opportunity was missed and invaluable months have been lost for ever. Therefore, the challenge today is all the more difficult.

But, with strong, decisive and active leadership, it is not yet too late to overcome the worst consequences. A hugely accelerated and widely understood sense of urgency is essential: with so little time left, weeks -- even days -- saved could be crucial. Even so, radical prioritisation and contingency planning on an almost unprecedented scale are needed -- possibly involving some curtailment of public services. But, above all, we must get started on all this now: this is an emergency and further bureaucratic delay should not be tolerated.

We are getting it wrong. If we continue to do so, the harm to the economy will be substantial and the lives of millions of people will be unnecessarily damaged. That would be unforgivable -- and an appalling way of entering the new Millennium. I know that my concerns are shared by many of those engaged in tackling the problem. With respect, I urge you to allow me very soon, with one or two such people, to present our views and recommendations to you.

Yours sincerely,

Robin Guenier Executive Director, Taskforce 2000


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