U.S. government warns citizens of Y2K failures overseas
September 14, 1999
(CNN) -- The State Department issued Y2K preparedness report cards for 194 countries and territories Tuesday, showing great disparities in the extent to which travelers may encounter troubles internationally with planes, trains and automated systems.
Kevin Herbert, director of overseas citizens services at the department, said Americans could face "potential difficulties" in obtaining medical services, water and other services as a result of malfunctioning computers tripping over the millennium bug.
The State Department has yet to issue any warnings about Y2K troubles for travelers and ex-patriates living around the world, but could in the future, he said.
"The Department of the State has no greater responsibility than to ensure to the best of our ability the safety of our citizens traveling abroad," Herbert said.
At a news conference in Washington, Herbert said the Y2K reports will help Americans make overseas travel decisions.
The government warned, for example, that in China there "may be a risk of potential disruption in the key sectors of banking and finance, telecommunications, medical services and in electrical power and infrastructure systems outside of the coastal cities."
It cautioned that failures in Russia were "likely to occur in the key sectors of electrical power, heat, telecommunications, transportation and financial and emergency services."
The unprecedented warnings will include details from countries where visiting Americans could be affected by power outages, water shortages, transportation glitches and other potentially serious problems if computers are unable to recognize the four-digit date 2000 on January 1.
Britain also published a country-by-country advisory Tuesday to warn British citizens about nations most at risk from the Year 2000 technology problem.
The U.S. reports were compiled by its embassies worldwide. Experts have long complained about the difficulties collecting adequate information from foreign governments about possible computer failures.The Y2K information was included as a paragraph or more within longer "consular information sheets," which describe each country's entry requirements, crime conditions, medical facilities and other information crucial for travelers.
"Most of the information we're getting is self-reported," said Robert Bennett, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate's Year 2000 Committee. "If it turns out these self-reported statements are accurate, the folks won't feel much in the way of Y2K."
The State Department reports also were expected to suggest how and where failures overseas may affect U.S. interests in the interconnected global economy, where problems with the export of Venezuelan crude, for example, might affect the price of gasoline for motorists here.
"Disruptions in this infrastructure and the relationships among suppliers and customers will negatively affect individuals, firms, industries, governments and national and regional economies around the world," the agency's inspector general, Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers, told a Senate committee earlier this year.The State Department previously has criticized Y2K efforts in Russia and former Eastern bloc countries, citing a "relatively high probability of ... failures." It also has predicted problems with power grids in India and Poland, railroads in China and telephones and water supplies in Italy.
The task of publicly identifying countries where systems might fail was clearly a sensitive one for the agency, which called the Y2K information "carefully compiled ... in an objective, non-comparative and non-alarmist way."
The Bureau of Consular Affairs said comments about Y2K efforts will be added to each nation's updated consular information sheet -- available on the State Department's Web site -- and said details will be updated periodically as countries improve.
"Our first priority is to provide information to U.S. citizens to try to meet their needs," said State Department spokesman Phil Reeker.
Worst Y2K failures overseas
Experts say the world's worst Year 2000 failures will occur overseas. They are predicting with increasing confidence there will be no national failures in the United States among key industries.
A new report today from the Office of Management and Budget said 97 percent of the U.S. government's most important computers at its largest agencies have been fixed. OMB estimated the total cost of government repairs at $8.34 billion, a slight increase from the $8.05 billion cited earlier in the summer.
"China is a worry, Japan is a worry, Russia is a worry, Italy is a worry. ... But many of these countries now are moving more aggressively and catching up," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., vice chairman of the Senate Year 2000 Committee.
The Gartner Group Inc., an analyst firm in Stamford, Conn., last month identified Russia as the highest risk for Y2K failures, followed by India and a cluster of countries that included Venezuela, Norway, Japan, Taiwan and Finland.
An overview from Aruba to UkraineSome details for a selection of countries in the State Department reports follow below:
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
U.K. lists countries at risk from millennium bug - September 14, 1999
U.S. State Department
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