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Don't be bitten by the bug

SCHOOLS and local authorities should take action now against the millennium bug which will prevent many computers and electronic equipment from working properly from New Year's Day 2000, writes Chris Johnston.

The Government highlighted the problem again last week with the launch of its Pledge 2000 scheme intended to get public and private sectors working together.

A recent Audit Commission report found many local authorities were behind schedule in their preparations, with more than a third still failing to identify the extent of the problem.

"The millennium bug is one of the most significant challenges facing organisations. Time is fast running out ... there is time to tackle the bug but authorities have to focus on the issue today," said Andrew Foster, the commission's controller.

There is a great deal of variation between education authorities, according to Dave Hassell, head of curriculum and institutional development for schools at the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency.

He says schools should not delay as costs will escalate as 2000 nears. Some will have little to do but others may face many different problems.

Potential problems are:

* Computers and networks: computers may not work properly, and electronic links, such as those with exam boards or the local authority, could be compromised. Apple and Acorn computers and many newer PCs are already 2000-compliant, but this cannot be assumed.

* Software: where dates are a central information source or are used for calculations the problems could be significant.

* Embedded systems: many devices and systems that are controlled by computer chips, such as security and heating systems, telephone switchboards and video recorders, could be affected.

For help contact BECTA on 01203 416994 (www.becta.org.uk) or Action 2000 on 0845 601 2000 (www.bug2000.co.uk). A Stitch in Time: Facing the Challenge of the Year 2000 Date Change is available from Audit Commission Publications on 0800 502030, Pounds 15.

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