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Millennium Bug bomb ticks loudly for construction

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Organisations are gearing up for a final thrust to prepare the construction industry for 2000, against a backdrop of disagreement over the extent of the Millennium Bug problem. The Construction Industry Board has convened a short-life working party to develop a joint industry/government awareness campaign, based on a report produced by the government-sponsored Action 2000.

But the Construction Industry Computing Council disputes Action 2000's finding that the construction industry is 'below average' in its level of readiness, calling it 'grossly exaggerated' and claiming that construction is one of the sectors best organised to cope with the bug.

Ian Hamilton, chief executive of the Construction Industry Computing Association, the secretariat for cicc, said: 'The survey method used was to take a compliance model designed for large companies and use that across the industry.' It ignores, he says, the fact that 94 per cent of the uk's contractors, for example, employ seven or fewer staff, and their problems are relatively easily dealt with. For bigger firms, he said, if they have outdated non-compliant systems, 'they have seen this as a heaven-sent opportunity to get rid of them'.

But Andy Nurse, programme manager for embedded systems with Action 2000, warned against complacency, and said that the biggest challenge for architects came from embedded systems installed in buildings. 'It is a question of what systems are in the building, and where the architect stands in all this from a legal point of view.' He described embedded systems as 'a minefield with just one mine in it' which could make the whole building inoperable.

Janine Michael, operations manager with the Construction Industry Board, said: 'We decided that we needed an urgent campaign to make people aware of the priorities.' The board is planning to launch its campaign in March.

On Tuesday construction minister Nick Raynsford held a meeting with Action 2000 and representatives of the industry to consider the issue. Action 2000 is also planning further research.

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