Y2K: Balance vs. Sensationalism : The Threat from Overseas

Article excerpt

American corporations, government agencies, financial houses, and utilities are lining up in droves and chorusing, "We're ready!" for January 1, 2000, when the "millennium bug" will bite.

"We are increasingly confident that the basic [U.S.] infrastructure will hold," said John Koskinen, director of the White House Council on the Year 2000 Conversion, in September. He said he doesn't expect anything like the sweeping electrical brownouts and blackouts predicted by Y2K Cassandras--perhaps only a few local problems and "glitches lasting hours."

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), cochairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, concurs, saying, "If Y2K were to occur today, the vast majority of Americans would experience no problems whatsoever."

Big U.S. businesses are likewise optimistic. Publicly traded companies and mutual funds are required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to regularly disclose their Y2K readiness. (But many small businesses that have not invested in a Y2K fix may have problems, come January 1.)

Virtually all government agencies and financial institutions have overhauled their computer systems and declared themselves ready for the onset of the millennium bug. SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt assures Americans that he will shut down any brokerage not ready by December 1 for the date change.

But the lack of Y2K remediation in a great many foreign countries has observers edgy.

"The global community is likely to experience varying degrees of Y2K- related failures in every sector, in every region, and at every economic level," says Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers, the State Department's inspector general. …