Originally created 09/12/98

Task force ugres Japanese to speed Y2K preparations



TOKYO -- Japanese companies should wind up their programs to counter the millennium computer bug problem by next June, a government panel recommended today.

A special task force chaired by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi -- the Advanced Information and Telecommunications Society Promotion Headquarters -- issued a report encouraging large firms to test their readiness for the potential turn-of-the-century crisis by staging mock exercises no later than June 1999.

Government-run computers that have a substantial impact on people's welfare will be required to meet this deadline, it said.

Experts say computers around the world could be vulnerable to systemic crashes on the first day of the year 2000. Many computers were programmed to recognize years by the last two digits, so they may mistake Jan. 1, 2000, for Jan. 1, 1900.

Japan has faced criticism that it has been slow to deal with the so-called Year 2000 problem.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange said last month that less than 10 percent of 1,549 companies that responded to a recent survey said they had completed their millennium bug preparations.

The Japanese panel instructed government agencies and ministries to start compiling -- and then make public -- data tracking their internal progress in coping with the problem on a quarterly basis.

Agencies and ministries will also be required to gauge the efforts of private companies in industries under their jurisdiction by carrying out spot checks every three months, the results of which will be publicly released, the report said.