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Slovak firms show uneven Y2K preparedness

International and domestic criticism of Slovakia's level of readiness to face the Y2K millennium bug has been sharp. The Slovak Spectator asked three Slovak firms - telecom provider EuroTel, the central bank (NBS) and Internet service provider Infolot Inc. - to explain their millennium bug strategies, and found that each had a different level of knowledge and concern about Y2K.
On March 18, the American Chamber of Commerce held a Y2K seminar with invited speakers from Oracle, Compaq and Arthur Andersen. The seminar outlined the standard international strategies that Slovak companies should apply to their millennium bug preparations.

International and domestic criticism of Slovakia's level of readiness to face the Y2K millennium bug has been sharp. The Slovak Spectator asked three Slovak firms - telecom provider EuroTel, the central bank (NBS) and Internet service provider Infolot Inc. - to explain their millennium bug strategies, and found that each had a different level of knowledge and concern about Y2K.

On March 18, the American Chamber of Commerce held a Y2K seminar with invited speakers from Oracle, Compaq and Arthur Andersen. The seminar outlined the standard international strategies that Slovak companies should apply to their millennium bug preparations.

Martin Smekal, a consultant for Arthur Andersen in Prague, explained that four steps should be taken. "The first step is inventory, whereby all possible problems should be outlined." The second step, he said, was to "prioritise", or decide what areas warrant the greatest concern. The third step involved the development of a physical plan, while the final step was "to implement the plan and then to test and re-test," Smekal said.

One company that has taken the international standards to heart is EuroTel, Bratislava. Public relations specialist Norbert Príhoda said that EuroTel "has taken the problem seriously and we have applied an international strategy of millennium bug preparations."

Príhoda explained that initial discussions took place in late 1997, and promised that Eurotel would be fully Y2K resistant in June. In case anything is overlooked, he added, EuroTel will rely on international partners in earlier time zones on the actual eve of the millennium for assistance and guidance.

"On New Year's Eve we will call our partners in Japan, for example, to ask them what kind of problems they experienced at midnight there," Príhoda explained. "Then we will know what to expect, and when our partners from America call, we will be able to help them out."

The idea of sharing information has not been adopted by some state institutions, however, and they have drawn criticism as a result.

At the March 18 Y2K seminar, Smekal explained that it is standard practice for national banks to assist other banks in preparations that demand such a magnitude of awareness and readiness as the Y2K bug. While Slovakia's national bank has satisfied critics in terms of internal preparations, Smekal said, the bank has not initiated a program to offer assistance or know-how to other banks.

Ján Onda, spokesman for the NBS, said that the NBS has engaged in Y2K preparations since 1997, and expects to be finished with preparations in September. "We have carried out the standard, international norms for the preparations and we do not expect any serious problems," he said.

However, the bank's spokesman expressed surprise when asked by The Slovak Spectator why the NBS had not published informative guidelines for other banks, as the Czech national bank had done. Onda said that he was unaware of the bank's responsibility as an information provider to other banks.

Other Slovak firms have taken the stance that millennium bug preparations, and the whole millennium bug "hype," has been over-exaggerated. Alper Ozogmen, director of Internet services provider Inlot Inc., said he is not concerned that the millennium bug will affect his firm seriously.

"It won't cause death or serious break-downs," he explained. "At most, it will cause small inconveniences that can be solved through a bit of extra effort."

As for the recent hype surrounding the effects of the millennium bug, Ozogmen is of the opinion that the apocalyptic talk about Y2K is a case of much ado about nothing.

"Producing artificial intelligence is more difficult than fixing artificial intelligence," he said. "Look at it this way: things made by people can be fixed by people."

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