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Study finds Americans fear millennium bug

June 25, 1998
Web posted at: 11:45 AM EDT

by Patrick Thibodeau and Matt Hamblen

FAIRFAX, Virginia (IDG) -- Nearly one in four Americans believes the year 2000 problem could affect them directly, according to a poll released yesterday at the World Congress on Information Technology at George Mason University here.

"If you think the American people are not paying attention, you're wrong," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), which commissioned the telephone poll of 1,000 people. "We think this should be a wake-up call to the political leadership, which has not yet emerged," Miller said.

Miller used the poll results to urge President Clinton to bring year 2000 to the forefront of national issues. But a lack of political recognition of millennium bug is hardly unique to the U.S.

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Some 75% of the people surveyed at the congress said their governments aren't doing enough to address the year 2000 problem, according to a separate ITAA poll.

In Colombia, for instance, the government recognizes the problem but doesn't publicly talk about it, at least "not officially," said Jose Ortiz, president of Unibase, a Bogota-based document management company. He said the government is more occupied with economic and drug trade problems.

Carlos G. Pallotti, president and CEO of Computec Systems SA in Buenos Aires said more than 65% of the companies in Argentina aren't doing anything about the year 2000. "In general, small and middle-sized companies don't have specific [year 2000] plans," said Pallotti, whose company makes software used in manufacturing. Richard Yin, executive vice president of Electronic Data Systems Corp. in Taiwan said he doesn't think governments around the world are doing enough to alert companies and the public to the year 2000 problem. If 25% of Americans feel year 2000 could cause them problems personally, the number is probably only 10% to 15% in Taiwan because of the public's lack of awareness, he said.

Chii-ming Yiin, vice minister of Economic Affairs for Taiwan, said his government plans to initiate a tax incentive and loan program for businesses that need capital to solve year 2000 problems.

Of the 23% of the Americans who said they expected to be impacted by year 2000, 80% are concerned their financial records may be distorted, and 56% are worried they will lose their jobs.

More than 1,600 IT leaders and government officials from 90-plus countries are attending the World Congress on Information Technology, which opened June 22.

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