Global Y2K ‘Peace Corps’ proposed

A renowned information technology consultant has proposed an intriguing approach to helping wayward nations play catch-up on their year 2000 projects: create a "Peace Corps" of experts who can share their knowledge with national year 2000 coordinators for free. Though it is seen as a noble idea, Howard Rubin's recent proposal to the United Nations and President Clinton's Y2K czar, John Koskinen, faces obstacles. Year 2000 experts lauded the approach, but they acknowledged privately that they are bound to solving their companies' millennium crises.

A renowned information technology consultant has proposed an intriguing approach to helping wayward nations play catch-up on their year 2000 projects: create a “Peace Corps” of experts who can share their knowledge with national year 2000 coordinators for free.

Though it is seen as a noble idea, Howard Rubin’s recent proposal to the United Nations and President Clinton’s Y2K czar, John Koskinen, faces obstacles. Year 2000 experts lauded the approach, but they acknowledged privately that they are bound to solving their companies’ millennium crises.

TIME CRUNCH

“It’s a wonderful concept, but I’m not sure how much time it would take to get this off the ground,” said Ann Coffou, managing director for the year 2000 practice at Giga Information Group in Norwell, Mass. Still, she said that if the program was organized properly, Giga’s analysts “would want to look into it.”

In an E-mail, Koskinen said the U.S. is considering how it might be supportive.

One way to make it work, said Rubin (howard_rubin@compuserve.com), president of Rubin Systems in Pound Ridge, New York, is to share best practices through written communications, videos and teleconferencing sessions. That could help because the year 2000 problem “is the one and only project that has pulled a lot of companies and countries together,” said Irene Dec, year 2000 program director at Prudential Insurance Company of America in Newark, New Jersey.

One way to offer assistance to underdeveloped nations, Dec said, is to provide them with the same kinds of year 2000 tool kits that Prudential and other companies have been providing to small businesses. “Technology is new to many of the countries that need help, so they don’t have a lot of legacy systems to deal with,” said Dec, who added that Prudential “will look to see what we can do” to help them.

Some industry groups have already made some progress. The Securities Industry Association (SIA) in New York, for example, has reached an agreement with Russia to send year 2000 programmers and practitioners to help Russian investment banks and other financial services firms work on their year 2000 projects, according to Mike Tiernan, vice president of IT at Credit Suisse First Boston Corp. in New York and chairman of the SIA year 2000 committee.

The effort, Tiernan said, “is not so much about feeling good about ourselves but rather to help our industry.”

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