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Y2K statistics encouraging news, but no time for complacency



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M e d i a

R e l e a s e

AUSTRALIA ,,L

S E N A T O R T H E H O N R I C H A R D A L S T O N

M inister fo r Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Deputy Leader o f the Government in the Senate

Y2K STATISTICS ENCOURAGING NEWS, BUT NO TIME FOR COMPLACENCY

The Federal Minister for Information Technology, Senator Richard Alston, today welcomed preliminary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which reveals that Australian busmess is making good headway in tackling the Year 2000 problem.

But Senator Alston warned that Australia could not afford to be complacent, especially in the light of the ABS findings that a large proportion of the nation’s micro and small businesses (employing less than 20 people) were either not aware of the Year 2000 problem or were not intending to undertake Year 2000 work.

'The Government is generally encouraged by these findings, but recognises that more work needs to be done by government and the private sector to ensure Australia is fully Y2K compliant - particularly as the longer the delay, the more expensive the remedy is likely to be," Senator Alston said.

'The ABS figures reveal that virtually all of the nation’s largest businesses - including in vital infrastructure areas - are not only aware of the Y2K problem but expect to complete the necessary remedial work by December 1999, ’ Senator Alston said.

"However, it is of potential concern to the Government that 19 per cent of large businesses have not yet begun work on Y2K, and therefore could face a problem is the work takes longer than expected.

'Also of concern is the ABS’s findings that the businesses that are either not aware of the problem or do not intend to undertake Y2K work employ about one million Australians.

"The Government is also concerned that the 13 per cent of businesses which do not intend to undertake Y2K work because they “have no technology that will be affected” may be wrong. Even if the business itself has no equipment at risk from Y2K, the business’ suppliers or customers may be at risk - with potential flow on effects along the supply chain.

"While these figures are on the whole encouraging, the Government urges all Australian businesses to seek further information on the Y2K problem. The Federal Government will continue to work with the States and Territories, and the private sector, to extend the public information campaign on this issue, which today’s statistics show has been highly, but not totally, successful.’

The Year 2000 (Y2K) problem, often referred to as the Millennium Bug, refers to the fact that some computer or chip-based systems only use the final two digits of the year - for example, 98 instead of 1998 - and therefore may shut down at midnight on 31 December, 1999 because the system does not recognise the Year 2000. The problem is not confined to computers, but has the potential to affect devices with computer chips or components, including lifts, navigation systems, VCRs and traffic lights.

Senator Alston said the ABS survey was the largest of its type in the world, with more than 7,000 businesses of all sizes responding to a detailed questionnaire. He congratulated the Y2K Steering Committee for providing the impetus for this work, and thanked the ABS for its valuable findings.

Media Contact: Terry O’Connor, Minister’s office 02 6277 7480 Website www.richardalston.dcita.gov.au 214/98 8 December 1998