Report: Y2K bug will have only mild impact

Numerous organizations around the world will experience problems from the Y2K computer bug, but the computer errors are likely to have only a moderate impact, according to a final report released Monday by the International Y2K Cooperation Center.

"The combinations of a great deal of dedicated effort, the limited use of digital controls in most infrastructures and society's general resilience mean that, although there will be many Y2K-caused errors, the combined negative effect of these errors will be moderate," said Bruce McConnell, director of the Center, which was created by the United Nations to help coordinate worldwide efforts to address the Y2K computer bug. Of the nine critical infrastructures being monitored by the center such as energy, finance, food and water, most "will function about as well as they normally do in the first days of the New Year," the report said. Most developed countries that are dependent on digital systems to run power plants or other infrastructures have been working to fix those systems. Even though some developing countries are unlikely to finish fixing their systems, they are less dependent on computers and are used to dealing without them. Still, the report said there could be a "medium to high risk" of errors in health services and government systems due to the Y2K bug that could impact public health and safety in the early days of January. In particular, the center said the health sector has been slow to respond to the problem. When it comes to government services, the report said there could be some errors in social welfare services across governments, particularly among local governments and in developing countries. But the report stresses that national defense systems "have been fixed and tested worldwide" and that bilateral arrangements have been established to protect against accidental attacks due to computer errors. The center said regional sector networks have been established to deal with particular problems in those regions. If regional authorities are unable to deal with all the problems they encounter, the World Bank, United Nations Development Program and others are ready to assist national Y2K officials in diagnosing the problems and proposing solutions. In addition, the United Nation's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance also will work with other nations to coordinate donations of food, clothing or other items in response to any humanitarian emergencies that may arise from the Y2K glitch.
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