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Y2K: Critical areas on course,
but SMEs still in danger zone

By Paul Francis
June 18, 1999

Colonies of shotgun-toting para-military guards, holed up in bunkers high in the hills, eyes scanning the horizon for the slightest movement. Catastrophic failures of every single thing we take for granted from electricity to piped water. Panicking crowds; crashing global economies; failing nuclear reactors; and, of course. Out-of-control missiles.

These are some of the millennium-meltdown visions being painted by preachers of doom and gloom as the end of 1999 draws nigh, bringing with it the looming threat of the Year 2000 date rollover problem--or in computerese, the Y2K.

The scenario seems far-fetched for an Asia still dealing with the grim realities of a crisis-spawned recession.

Malaysia, in particular, has since last year had to grapple with the more pressing issues of political turmoil, corporate restructuring, financial mergers and near-economic collapse.

The possibility that "a few computers" might fail come 2000 seems a puny matter next to more burning concerns facing the country. After all, computers go down all the time, don't they? How could that lead to chaos and anarchy?

In October last year, Energy, Communications and Multimedia Minister Leo Moggie, who chairs the National Y2K Steering Committee, acknowledged that the Malaysian government may well have underestimated the massive remedial action required to tackle the Y2K problem.

When the committee was formed in April 1998, RM30 million (US$7.9 million) was thought sufficient for the 850,000-strong public sector's impending woes.

But when the paltry sum was dwarfed by individual Y2K budgets of some local companies and financial institutions, the budget was upped to RM100 million (US$26.3 million) in the 1999 National Budget in October, 1998.

Even then, this sum was said to be inadequate by computer vendors.



Paul Francis is a freelancer who has observed the Malaysian tech scene for the past four years. Email us your comments.


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