It is possible that in the first weeks of the year 2000, thousands
of businesses may go bust because they, their suppliers and customers
haven’t taken the right precautions with their IT systems.
When the clock strikes midnight on 31 December 1999, many computer
systems will think it is the year 1900. This problem is called the
Millenium time-bomb and is just 950 days away, but people are only now
becoming aware of the real consequences of ignoring the situation.
Alarmingly, less than ten per cent of British businesses have made any
progress towards solving it.
Until very recently no one other than the computer industry took any
notice. Last autumn, the Government bowed to demands for action and
created Taskforce 2000, an organisation to raise awareness of the
time-bomb in the business community. Taskforce 2000 estimates put the
cost to Britain of solving the time-bomb at pounds 31 billion, so the
DTI put pounds 170,000 into the campaign. New Labour seems to have put
some urgency into the problem and will hopefully make more impact than
Taskforce 2000 coverage gained momentum at the end of 1996 and
campaigning has been stepped up recently in the national media. The
Taskforce 2000 ’doomsday merchants’, as they have been nicknamed, will
always win PR-wise. Come the year 2000, they can always say ’we told you
so’ when businesses collapse around them, or if a catastrophe is averted
claim responsibility for alerting UK businesses in time.
But more recently Taskforce 2000 admitted to exaggerating the figures in
order to gain attention. The problem is a very serious one and should
not be underestimated, but it is clear now that the facts presented by
Taskforce 2000 were fiction. By losing credibility at a critical time,
Taskforce 2000 has jeopardised the campaign’s impact.
The problem now is that the challenge remains for the next two years and
time is running out. Campaign continuity is needed, but media interest
will dissipate. A few forthcoming seminars are a drop in the ocean and
greater resources will be needed to get businesses to take this issue
Full marks to Taskforce 2000 for the current effort, a black mark for
shooting themselves in the foot with false figures, but ’nil points’ for
timing. The campaign must raise the number of businesses tackling the
problem to nearer 100 per cent if it is to be judged a success. The
jury’s out until we read the papers after 1 January 2000 - if there are