Y2K Peace Corps & SWAT Teams

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We've heard about the SWAT teams. Now the Peace Corps. Can any of you actually envision this happening?

Millennium Bug `Peace Corps' Proposed To Help Poor Nations

Wednesday, January 13, Site last updated 01/13/99 10:22AM
Millennium Bug `Peace Corps' Proposed To Help Poor Nations
This story ran in the Courant January 13, 1999

Throughout most of the world, the millennium bug might as well mean dysentery, and finding something to eat takes precedence over locating missing digits within computer code.

Yet in a world economy increasingly linked electronically, poor countries must deal with their Y2K problems or lose critical investment they need to build thriving economies, a growing number of information technology experts and international bankers say.

Those experts say it will take a rapid, large-scale mobilization of brainpower among technology- blessed nations to help poor countries fix hardware and software that do not recognize the numerals ``00'' as representing the year 2000.

Howard A. Rubin, a research fellow at Stamford-based META Group Inc. and chairman of computer science at Hunter College in New York, has even proposed the creation of a Y2K Peace Corps, which would be filled with volunteers from around the globe. Last month, the META Group donated Y2K research it values at $500,000 to the United Nations to help countries upgrade date-sensitive hardware and software.

Without such aid, developing countries run the risk of a entering a ``death spiral'' of widespread capital flight, Rubin said. The very countries that are too poor to fix JUMP TYPE BELOWtheir technology infrastructure will lose desperately needed foreign investments because of uncertainty about whether major business sectors will function after Jan. 1, 2000.

Rubin argues that, in a global economy, trouble in developing economies means trouble for mature ones.

``Y2K success is measured globally. Weak links in the chain hurt everybody,'' Rubin said. ``The people who really understand this are willing to kick in.''

Rubin's idea comes at a time when a majority of the world's countries are just understanding that there is such a thing as a Y2K problem. Joyce Amenta, Y2K programmer coordinator for the World Bank Group, says only 35 to 40 percent of the world's countries have developed national Year 2000 plans.

``That may be one indicator of the level of attention given to the problem, but it is not an indicator of whether the resources are available to fix the problems, or how fast they can be addressed,'' Amenta said.

Amenta says the World Bank, with $113 billion in outstanding loans to governments of poor nations, is worried about the problem. That's why it expects to spend $30 million this year to educate countries about Y2K problems and findi solutions.

There are more than simple humanitarian motives for citizens of the United States to care about what happens to technology systems in those countries, Amenta said. Many of those countries provide the goods and services that American consumers have come to depend upon. But Amenta and others note that, in some ways, developing countries may weather Y2K issues better than some more technology-dependent countries.

Many developing economies are much less dependent upon technology to conduct business, and the disruptions are likely to be less severe than in more affluent countries, Amenta said.

And some countries such as Mozambique, now recovering from a bloody civil war, have only recently been able to attract substantial foreign investments, said Lisa Audet, a vice president who heads the Maputo office of Glastonbury-based Equator Bank.

That means the majority of systems installed by the African country's now burgeoning private sector are brand-new and Y2K compliant, Audet said.

But Equator Bank, which specializes in trade and investment in Africa for its parent company HSBC Holdings PLC of the United Kingdom, is concerned enough about Y2K compliance that, in the fall, it held seminars on the issue in both Mozambique and Angola, Audet said. ``When we started talking to people about Y2K, it was clear not too many people knew much about it,'' Audet said.

The problem in Mozambique is that the older computer systems installed within state-run businesses, such as telecommunications and utilities, are not Y2K compliant, and there has been no agreement on how the country will pay to fix them, she said.

Audet said the September seminar attracted 100 people, who agreed to begin to tackle Mozambique's problems.

There is some evidence that that is beginning to happen in other countries, as well.

On Dec. 11, the United Nations held a worldwide summit that attracted representatives of 120 countries to New York to discuss the Y2K problem, and potential solutions.

``That was unprecedented in the history of the United Nations,'' said Ambassador Kamal, Pakistan's representative to the U.N. and host of the event.

Kamal said he endorses the concept of a global cooperative effort to attack the Y2K problem.

Rubin, however, says there is neither enough time nor money to dispatch idealistic computer programmers across the globe to wade through lines of computer code or search for embedded computer chips.

Instead, he envisions a sort of virtual Peace Corps, in which programmers and analysts would search for solutions to foreign Y2K problems from their comfort of their own desktops.
``It's going to take a massive parallel effort,'' he said.

Rubin said he believes that there are enough information technology specialists who would be willing to postpone mining the Y2K gold rush to help the technologically less fortunate.

``There are plenty of ways to make money in information technology,'' Rubin said. ``This would be the first technological humanitarian effort in history. I really think there are plenty of nuts like me who would be willing to help.''
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-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), January 13, 1999


Thanks Leska,

Next to the electricity and telecommunications working in the U.S., or not, the global inability to respond adequately to Y2K, is one of the Big Three hot spots in our collective achilles heel.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), January 13, 1999.

Diane, I agree, not only economically, but what if it's true that corrupt data will re-infect remediated systems? All those $$ Billions down the drain because of a non-compliant database transfer from Albania, etc?

Have been hoping Ed will update us on the UN SWAT team idea. Ed, do you have hordes of programmers eMailing you saying they're eager to forego Y2K buckeroos to go to Zimbabwe and maybe have trouble getting back?

How do the SWAT & Peace Corp programmer recruitments deal with the turf wars over the FEMA "reallocation" of remediators?
Maybe they're secretly cloning programmers in Area 51?
Oh, no, they have the personnel problem solved with the Back To Work retraining program for welfare recipients.
On Your Feet Again in Uganda or Carpathia, your choice! Empowerment!

Ashton & Leska in Cascadia, who have been in several govt Outta Poverty programs, and some were excellent, but some monstrous

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-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), January 13, 1999.

Now I've heard it all... Why is it that we as a nation feel that we have to travel thousands of miles to solve problems that we have right here? I guess I'm a DGI on this issue. There is already a shortage of programmers here, so logically, let's send them to a third world country that has no chance of correcting their problems at this late date. There is no point of worrying about foreign computers corrupting our data when we're still not complient.

-- d (d@dgi.com), January 13, 1999.

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