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The Facts - What is the Y2K / Millennium bug?

Y2K: The Facts - What is the Y2K / Millennium bug?

 In the ‘60s when computer technology was in its infancy computers were programmed with punch cards. Space for storing information was scarce, so dates were reduced to two digits – just “99” instead of “1999”. This became an ongoing practice despite the developments in technology.

 When we reach the Year 2000 some electronic and computer run systems won’t know what “00” means, which could cause them to stop operating or make mistakes. For example some computers will revert to 1900.

 An enormous amount of work is being done to prevent these problems from occurring. But no one can predict what will happen when we reach 2000 and the date related mistakes made by computers may take time to surface.

 Y2K will affect more than just computers. Everything from our banking systems to our water supply is dependent on computer technology. Potentially Y2K could affect a myriad of services.

 Since all our core services are interdependent, the loss of one service will have flow on effects to many other areas. For instance a loss of power could affect electronic banking.

What has New Zealand done about Y2K?

 The Y2K Readiness Commission was set up by the Government last year to manage the process in response to a Y2K Task Force report recommendation.

 The role of the Y2K Readiness Commission is to protect the health and safety of New Zealanders; minimise the impacts on the economy; and preserve and enhance New Zealand’s international reputation.

 The Commission monitors New Zealand’s readiness to manage Y2K risks and reports regularly to government and to the public.

 The Commission works closely with all sectors of the economy including central and local government, and Emergency Management & Civil Defence.

 The Commission has a consultative committee made up of representatives from key sectors (representing essential services such as water and power) and local and central government, to facilitate sharing of information and collaboration on Y2K strategies.

 The Commission is running information programmes aimed at helping small and medium enterprises and households to prepare for Y2K.

 Information was sent directly to all small and medium businesses in February. Further information on business continuity planning was sent in July. This has been supported by extensive sectoral liaison and a media programme focussing on the Y2K issues affecting small and medium businesses.

 The public information programme, launched on 21 July, includes television, press and radio advertising. This is being supported by a nationwide household mailer. Every New Zealand household will receive a checklist outlining the simple steps they need to take to be prepared for Y2K. Other activities aimed at the community include a schools programme, and forums hosted by local government.

 By international standards New Zealand’s preparations for Y2K are considered to be well advanced. New Zealand’s size, and our willingness to freely disclose information, have resulted in significant progress being made across all sectors of the economy. However we are dealing with a complex issue, which means that we can not afford to relax as a nation or as individuals.

 The telecommunications, banking and energy sectors as well as central and local government, Emergency Management & Civil Defence have been working hard to identify potential risks and develop contingency plans in order to ensure we are ready for Y2K. Recent surveys show this work is progressing well but that much more needs to be done. The Commission’s next survey is due to be released around 30 July 1999.

 Survey information and the statements issued by sectors on their level of Y2K preparedness can be found on the Y2K Readiness Commission’s website: www.y2k.govt.nz.

What are we preparing for?

 The Y2K Readiness Commission’s current view is that despite the progress made there is the possibility of interruption to the supply of some essential services over the period from 31 December through to 31 March 2000.

 The Y2K Readiness Commission is urging New Zealanders to prepare their households to manage for up to three days during this period without one or more essential services.

About the Y2K Readiness Commission

 The Commission reports to the Minister for Information Technology, the Honourable Maurice Williamson, who reports progress to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

 Through advising, monitoring and sharing of information, the Y2K Readiness Commission aims to help organisations and individuals manage their Y2K risks.

 The key personnel at the Y2K Readiness Commission are Chairman Basil Logan, Deputy Chairman David Henry, Director Clare Pinder and Special Adviser John Good.

 The Commission was set up in October 1998 and will continue to operate until 31 March 2000.

The role of Emergency Management & Civil Defence

 In addition to its national tasks related to public risk management and disaster preparedness, Emergency Management & Civil Defence co-ordinates the planning of cross sector response by emergency services and utilities for Y2K and millennium incidents. By working in partnership with emergency services and utilities to develop co-ordinated plans, potential disruption to communities is reduced and public safety from possible Y2K risks is maximised.

 Over the New Year period Emergency Management & Civil Defence will be monitoring Y2K incidents in its Beehive basement operations centre. Information collected from emergency services and utilities from around the country will be gathered and made available to assist with decision making. Information collected will also be made available to the wider public via the Internet and through the media.

New Zealand – first to see the sun

 Since New Zealand will be first to see the sun in 2000, the international media’s attention will be focussed not just on our celebrations, but also on the effect Y2K has on us.

 The Y2K Readiness Commission will monitor progress and coordinate and provide comment to international and national media on Y2K in the period leading up to December 31, and for the following three months.

 Steps are being taken to ensure that the additional level of interest does not create infrastructural problems in itself, especially since the New Year period traditionally places demands on existing systems.

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