What Public Citizens Can Do about the Y2K Crisis

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Each of us can be a 'public citizen' in our response to the Y2K challenge; we can play a critical role in alerting others and helping to shape a community and national response that secures the welfare of all. We list below a number of ways that public citizens can work together to prepare for worst-case scenarios posed by this unprecedented challenge.

1. Public citizens can make sure their own workplaces, affiliated businesses, and support structures are all Y2K compliant. Public citizens should act quickly and effectively to assess their own Y2K preparedness. This means following the same assessment, remediation, and testing steps as businesses. After taking appropriate steps to assure the integrity of their own information technology, public citizens should inquire about the Y2K compliance of their partners, vendors, suppliers, and other essential organizations. In addition, public citizens should check on the Y2K compliance of their office buildings and community infrastructure systems such as electricity, transportation, and waste disposal.

Public citizens who are well along in the Y2K remediation process may also help by sharing their learning and experience with others who are just getting started. As awareness of the social dimensions of the Y2K crisis increases, there are likely to be market disruptions, particularly in foreign markets. Public citizens should be alert to such possibilities, consult with investment managers where appropriate, and be prepared to meet financial obligations without impairing their own financial condition. In taking these steps, they should act in a responsible manner that avoids contributing to a disastrous market plunge.

2. Public citizens can help to increase public awareness of the Y2K problem. Before we as a society can mobilize to react constructively, we must convince all relevant parties that the year 2000 problem is both serious and urgent. Although there have been a number of high quality Y2K conferences, many of them involve 'preaching to the converted.' And although there are a plethora of excellent Websites providing pertinent information, we must find effective means to reach the great majority of our national population that lacks computer access to the Web and relies on traditional media, especially television, for its news.

Public citizens can help by stimulating and/or providing support for in-depth treatment of the problem in newsletters, newspapers, books, movies, radio, and television. A thoughtful discussion of the problem and of the need for action on 'Oprah Winfrey' would be worth any number of conferences or pamphlets. Businesses, which use the media effectively to promote their products and services, should turn their resources and skills to the task of helping educate the public about the Y2K problem. Striking the appropriate tone so as to strongly motivate listeners or viewers without inducing panic is a major challenge.Successful business leaders enjoy considerable access to local and state officials and possess great influence among their peers. They can begin to increase public awareness simply by activating their own community networks where they are located. Engaging their boards, stockholders, and advisory committees on the social dimensions of the Y2K issue is an important step in assuring support for preparedness measures.

3. Public citizens can play a leadership role in helping to organize a social response to the Y2K problem at the national, state, and local levels. The year 2000 problem poses a set of interlocking challenges in each community. Too often, it has been addressed as a technical problem for individuals or corporations, without looking at the larger social dimension. Public citizens can take the lead in getting beyond this narrow view and in mobilizing the resources of their local and state communities to address the social dimensions of the Y2K crisis. Businesses can also help by providing key technical and fiscal support to national service organizations that can activate their networks of local chapters to prepare for Y2K.