Here comes Y2K - ready or not!

Here comes Y2K - ready or not!

As the first large Western nation to make the date transition, all eyes will no doubt be on Australia when the new millennium finally arrives.

So, will it be a damp squib or a crash into chaos? Has it been blown out of all proportion? Or, will it cause loss of life, as some very concerned Brits seemed to think in a recent survey? Perhaps, it will just pass quietly, with detrimental effects creeping in over the ensuing months, as yet others think.

Your guess, it seems, is as good as any.

Of course, both the Federal Government and industry, not least of all the telecommunications industry (represented by the Year 2K Industry Program), are confident that "Australia is unlikely to be significantly impacted by the millennium bug".

"I have been very impressed with the openness and integrity that I have experienced in dealing with these companies through the Y2K Industry Program," says Y2K Industry Program chief executive officer Graeme Inchley. "I strongly believe that because of their efforts, Australia is extremely well placed to handle the entry of the millennium relatively incident free. Our essential services and key infrastructure companies are in very good shape and their disclosures should give all Australians a great sense of confidence."

But, just how ready is ready? Even the Australian Communication Authority (ACA) says that the telecommunications industry is well prepared for 'known' risks, and warns consumers to be ready for any 'unexpected' events related to Y2K.

Just what these are, however, is likely to remain a mystery, until they do arise, if they do.

Leading local Internet service providers Telstra and OzEmail seem pretty confident. Neither wanted to make any specific comments, with both directing us to press releases and their Y2K sites.

Telstra, which has been undertaking a complex and rigorous $400-million program to address the Year 2000 transition since 1995, also admits that the "possibility of problems or failures in its own operations or with suppliers, other carriers and/or customers remains". The company, therefore, has comprehensive contingency arrangements, which will assist it to "speedily and efficiently resolve any unexpected Y2K problems and to minimise the impact of any Y2K-related issues on its customers".

"Telstra's approach to Year 2000 activity is one of risk mitigation," says Negba Weiss-Dolev, director of Telstra's Year 2000 program. "The possible risks or threats are determined, and their potential impact on the business is evaluated. Priorities are then established and used to build contingency plans. These have included sourcing alternate/back-up suppliers of products and services, organising additional support arrangements with key suppliers, stockpiling additional equipment and spare parts, scheduling key management and technical staff availability for key dates, arranging additional operational staff, performing run-throughs and practice drills, establishing a Year 2000 control centre, and completing intercarrier testing with a number of overseas carriers."

For its part, OzEmail is "aware of the potential impact of the Year 2000 date change", and its board has committed significant human and financial resources to addressing these issues. The company has reviewed critical services, had a 'dry-run', which proved most effective, and has extensive contingency plans in place.

Smaller players seem to be taking a "wait and see" view.

"Only time will tell," says Sharon Yhap, operations manager at Internet service provider Planet Internet. "We believe we are Y2K ready and have gone as far as checking that our suppliers are too. Of course, we'll still have technicians on standby on New Year's Eve, for any unexpected eventualities."

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