Egypt's Y2K Official: "If you don't know, you won't panic" : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Well, well, well...

To most Egyptians, Y2K problem is incomprehensible 1.37 p.m. ET (1849 GMT) December 2, 1999 By Scheherezade Faramarzi, Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt (AP)  The Problems of the Year 2000, as the Y2K bug is known in Egypt, seem a light year away for the men puffing on water pipes in a small cafe in a Cairo slum.

"Let me first solve the problem of 1999,'' declares 50-year-old Fat'hallah Mohran.

A quick briefing about the computer malady that has consumed much of the Western world only confuses him further. Some computers can only read two-digit years and if they're not fixed they won't work properly in 2000, when they will assume "00'' is 1900.

The same ignorance can be found all over Egypt, where many banks, companies and government services are computerized, but where nearly half the adults can't read and the majority of the 60 million population lives below the poverty line.

And that's exactly how Egyptian authorities want it to be, to avoid millennial hysteria.

"If you don't know, you won't panic,'' said Ehab Mostafa Elwy, head of the government agency tasked with ensuring Egypt's computers are compliant.

Y2K panic might send people rushing to hoard supplies, causing shortages, or spur them to withdraw money from banks, bringing about a collapse of the financial market, Elwy said.

His job is not to make sure the public is Y2K savvy, but to ensure people involved with computers know what to do. The government has organized seminars and training, much of it underwritten by $4 million in grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Elwy insists that although Egypt was relatively late to address it, the millennium bug has been eradicated in all vital services: electricity, water, energy, gas, telecommunications and aviation.

But some equipment in hospital intensive care units is not yet compliant, he admits, so hospitals are using a contingency plan  instead of programming the computers by the year, they are doing so by the week.

Elwy claims the government is 97 percent compliant and that its 166 mainframes and 108,518 other computers are all now Y2K ready.

But as is the case for most countries, those claims have not been independently verified.

Ali Moselhi and Mohammed Abdelfattah El Azab, who organized most of the Y2K awareness programs, think authorities are pretty much ready, but the private sector is likely to suffer significant problems.

Only about half the estimated 100,000 mainframe and minicomputers in the private sector will be ready, says El Azab. As a result, air conditioning and elevators could fail in some hospitals, hotels and other buildings.

That would affect some of the 50,000 tourists expected for a New Year dusk-to-dawn pyramids bash just outside Cairo featuring a new opera by the French composer Jean Michel Jarre. Officials say getting cash from ATM machines could also be a problem.

Egypt was cited by the CIA's expert on Y2K, Lawrence Gershwin, in October as being among countries where Y2K preparations have been poor and where significant failures in essential services are possible.

The U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Daniel C. Kurtzer, is quoted on the embassy's Web site, however, as saying in an October speech: "We don't anticipate a major disruption of utilities and services.''

Egypt, a country where chaos and bureaucracy are a way of life, is not known for contingency planning.

So, if pension checks don't reach the poor on time, for example, there will not be much fuss, says Moselhi. They are never on time anyway.

And because Egypt is more a cash-based than electronic society, experts say it will not be as severely affected as Western countries. Most local bank branches are not even connected to their central offices, let alone to overseas banks.

In addition, New Year's falls within the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period of fasting and prayer in this predominantly Muslim nation.

"I am sure the way we will handle the problem here will be calm. Even if an intensive care unit does not work properly and the guy dies, this will not be a problem, because if he has to die, he will die. No one will say the Y2K killed him... They will say it was God's will,'' Moselhi said.

-- Roland (, December 02, 1999


I just re-read this article and my mouth is still hanging open...


-- Roland (, December 02, 1999.

Definately, one of the scariest reports i've seen in a while. It just may be typical for that area. Hope the waring factions decide to celebrate as opposed to creating havoc.


-- Bill (, December 02, 1999.

"If you don't know, you won't panic".

I have the feeling that this sentiment is fairly global in nature...


-- Roland (, December 02, 1999.

hahahahahahahahahaha! This is a fine example of idiocy! The lunatics are running the asylum! Roland, you've really been finding gems the last couple days. Thanks

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, December 02, 1999.

Now listen y'all, don't get too excited about this misinformation. The Sheeple of Egypt can fully expect no interruptions to their way of life. I spoke with Moselhi several times my own self, and advised him that ever'thang would be alright if he'll just stay quiet. This whole thang'll be over in a few short months. Matter of fact, in Egypt, it'll be just like a 2-3 year, oops- I meant day, dust storm.

-- Bubba (Bill@thewhitehouse.orgy), December 02, 1999.

That Fox News URL is gone. Can you post an updated link, or a synopsis?

-- Ron Schwarz (, December 02, 1999.

The link goes to the Fox Site. I can't get it to link to the specific article. It was posted at 1:37 PM EST under the title "To most Egyptians, Y2K problem is incomprehensible".

I posted the article above in it's entirity.


-- Roland (, December 02, 1999.

"They will say it was God's will"

Oh my.

-- Deborah (, December 02, 1999.


Don't ya just l-o-v-e bureaucrats?


"If you don't know, you won't panic..." would make a great bumper sticker!


-- Diane J. Squire (, December 03, 1999.

Try this Washington Post link.

If thousands die, will they still say it was God's will?

-- Steve (, December 03, 1999.

Oops. This should be the correct Post link.

-- Steve (, December 03, 1999.

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