In a campaign to wake companies up to the problems of computer failure in 2000, George Mudie, the lifelong learning minister, this week launched a Pounds 1 million marketing campaign aimed at safeguarding companies.
National advertisements will spell out that "free training is on offer that small and medium-sized businesses cannot afford to refuse", said a spokesman.
"Information technology specialists say at least 10 per cent of small businesses not already bug trained face liquidation when the bug timebomb hits," he said. "Some businesses are already under the false impression the bug can be fought off by waiting for a software solution. They're wrong and must act now or possibly face insurmountable problems when their business systems and other electronic devices fail to recognise the date change from 1999 to 2000."
The millennium bug is the inability of business systems to recognise the date change from 1999 to 2000. Timing devices only recognise the last two digits of any year and may interpret the century change as 1900, and not 2000.
The Government says businesses can learn about what they have to do through training one or two individuals for a couple of days. Training and enterprise councils are providing the expertise for people to learn how to take action against the bug. They are also offering accreditation to other organisations offering training.
Mr Mudie said: "We are concerned at the huge number of small businesses which so far appear to be taking this issue very lightheartedly. What they are facing is going out of business. We are now offering free bug training and the short courses are delivered by accredited training providers which meet industry quality training standards. Training is available throughout the country and tailored to businesses' needs.
"These expert bugbusters will help cut through the mass of literature and manuals on this issue now circulating in ther market place from dubious sources - and mostly out there to make a quick buck."