Written Answers. - Computerisation Programme.

Tuesday, 23 March 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 502 No. 3

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  114.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   if she has satisfied herself with the progress towards full year 2000 compliance within her Department and in agencies for which her Department is responsible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8220/99]

  115.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the number of personnel with her Department working on securing year 2000 compliance within her Department and the bodies under its aegis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8235/99]

  122.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   if she has satisfied herself that agencies (details supplied) will achieve full year 2000 compliance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8261/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Treacy): Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  I propose to take Questions Nos. 114, 115 and 122 together.

I am satisfied with the progress being made in our Department towards achieving full year 2000 compliance. The Government has set 31 July 1999 as the deadline for achieving compliance on all fatal and critical systems across all Departments and our Department is on schedule to meet this deadline. This is also the timeframe set for achieving compliance by the agencies under this Department's remit. The agencies named by the Deputy have all been reporting to my Department on a quarterly basis on progress being made on their respective year 2000 programmes. These reports show that steady progress is being made towards meeting this deadline. This week staff [545] from my Department with direct responsibility for the year 2000 programme have scheduled meetings with all of the agencies listed by the Deputy to ensure that programmes are progressing according to plan. I expect to be in a better position to advise the Deputy on progress within the agencies after these meetings have been held.

In a previous reply to the Deputy on 15 December 1998 on the numbers of staff engaged on year 2000 work, I indicated that two staff members were assigned full-time to the year 2000 project with others assigned as the need arose. Since that time, in effect, the entire complement of staff in the IT unit of my Department has been working on various projects which are year 2000 contingent. The year 2000 project within my Department is a top priority to the extent that no new projects or system development is being assumed by the unit until such time as the year 2000 programme is complete. The unit comprises 23 staff including two staff members at management level.

  116.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the cost expenditure to date on creating public awareness of the potential dangers of the year 2000 problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8251/99]

  119.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   if she has satisfied herself with the results of the Government's business awareness campaign; the costs incurred by the campaign to date; its budget for 1999; the schedule of events for 1999; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8258/99]

  120.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the further consideration, if any, she has given to a proposal that a State-sponsored loan scheme be put in place to assist small businesses become year 2000 compliant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8259/99]

  121.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   her views on whether the year 2000 problem is a business or a political issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8260/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Treacy): Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  I propose to take Questions Nos. 116, 119, 120 and 121 together.

As the Minister with responsibility for dealing with the year 2000 problem, I launched a national business awareness campaign in May last year. The success of this campaign is evidenced by a survey, conducted by the Irish Computer Society, which showed in September last that almost nine out of ten businesses are aware of the year 2000 [546] problem. It also showed, however, that only 52 per cent of companies had already begun year 2000 projects.

Despite the high levels of awareness, the somewhat poorer level of action is worrying. For this reason and to heighten knowledge of the need to take early and definitive action, in December last I launched the Enterprise Ireland national Y2K information service specifically geared to the needs of both small and medium sized companies. The new information service includes a helpline number. Callers are provided with an information pack including a directory of Y2K consultants and service providers. In addition, the service provides a series of training workshops both to companies and to intermediaries such as the county and city enterprise boards and many others. The new information service also operates a dedicated website providing updated versions of its information pack and various other relevant material. The Y2K website provides links to other suitable sites of direct benefit to SMEs.

Nevertheless, I am still concerned about the levels of preparedness of companies to deal with the millennium bug problem. To try to accurately gauge their preparedness, Enterprise Ireland is initiating a comprehensive national survey on the levels of compliance of companies. This survey will be repeated every quarter for the remainder of the year to assess the changing levels of compliance and to direct actions to stimulate compliance. The first results are expected in early April.

I am broadly satisfied that the awareness campaign has been a success and I reiterate that the Government has no responsibility towards ensuring that companies actually take our advice and get their systems compliant. A total of £42,964 was spent on the campaign during 1998. A sum of approximately £300,000 is being made available to Enterprise Ireland for the awareness campaign this year. A further sum of £30,000 has been included in this Department's Estimate for spending on this issue during 1999, if required.

Continuing efforts to publicise the issue will continue during this year and I have addressed several conferences already on the subject and will continue to use every opportunity to publicise the subject. The Enterprise Ireland campaign, which I outlined, will continue for the full year and even to the early part of next year. I have arranged that the county and city enterprise boards will organise a series of events for their client companies during the year and the first of these is being launched this week. Shannon Development is organising a series of seminars next month. Various initiatives have also been undertaken by private sector groups and I have encouraged these projects.

It has been made clear from the start that the role of Government has been to raise awareness for business on the issue. There is no question of State funding, including any State-sponsored loan scheme, being provided to companies to defray the costs of ensuring that their systems are com[547] pliant. I do not consider that it would be appropriate for the State to get involved in such funding.

Individual enterprises must identify the issues as they affect their companies and devise solutions and many have already done so. This is primarily a management issue, just like other management issues which arise all the time in the running of business. I do not consider it to have any political context. It is a matter for each business and other users of computer systems to assess the full implications of the year 2000 on their systems, to identify the necessary solution and take remedial action.

  117.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the number of times the national year 2000 committee which operates under the auspices of her Department has met since its establishment; the costs incurred to date in relation to its activities; its budget for 1999; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8256/99]

  118.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the members of the national year 2000 committee; their qualification for membership of the committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8257/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Treacy): Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 118 together.

In early 1998, I invited and received the commitment of representatives of a broad range of relevant business organisations and State agencies to support the Government's awareness campaign and take part in a year 2000 committee to oversee and advise on the campaign. The membership is set out in the accompanying table.

The role of the committee, the members of which have given their time on a voluntary basis, has been to advise me on campaign strategy and to report on the progress within the bodies represented and in the wider business community. Its members include representatives of groups which interact with small business on a daily basis and are, therefore, in a position to exert influence, for example, the banks, the accounting-auditing profession and the insurance industry.

The committee has met on four official occasions since its formation. Several members of the committee have attended many other meetings on this issue throughout the year.

With the help of the committee, a comprehensive brochure was prepared outlining the nature and implications of the problem and giving advice on how to deal with it. This brochure was circulated to more than 100,000 businesses throughout the country.

In addition, a series of seven regional conferences have been held to increase awareness of [548] the problem where I, along with committee representatives, have impressed on participants the urgency of the need to address the issue. These and a subsequent national conference in Dublin received wide media coverage. The total cost of the brochure and the conferences was £42,964. A further sum of £30,000 has been included in this Department's Estimates for spending on this issue during 1999, if required.

Mr. Simon Nugent Chambers of Commerce of Ireland
Mr. Dave Kerr County & City Enterprise Boards, Dept. of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Mr. Brendan Kirwan First National Building Society
Ms Rosmary Sexton Enterprise Ireland
Mr. Eamonn Kearney Forfás
Ms Katherine Lucey IBEC
Mr. Peter Lillis IDA Ireland
Mr. Robin Menzies
FCA
Institute of Chartered Accountants
Mr. Victor Hume Irish Bankers Federation
Mr. Liam Kelly
Mr. Tony O'Farrell
Irish Computer Society
Ms Mary Kennedy Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society Ltd.
Mr. Michael Horan Irish Insurance Federation
Mr. Tony Smith Irish League of Credit Unions
Mr. Cormac Maher Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association
Ms Gerardine Jones Irish Stock Exchange
Ms Méabh O'Connor PKS Systems Integration (Ireland) Ltd.
Ms Kathleen Belton RGDATA
Ms Catherine Hogan Shannon Development
Mr. Jim Seaward Small Firms Association
Mr. Séan O Raighne Údaras na Gaeltachta
Ms Mairead McGee Vintners Federation of Ireland
Mr. Kevin Murphy Irish Hotels Federation
Mr. Stephen Duggan Construction Industry Fed.
Mr. Eddie Byrne Licensed Vintners Assoc.


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