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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Computers may be stuck in the past

Computers may be stuck in the past

THE ANNOUNCEMENT that the Commune Elections law will not be enacted till next

year has dealt a decisive blow to plans to save the National Election Computer

from an impending Y2K (Year 2000) breakdown.

The UNTAC-era NEC computer

is not Y2K compliant, making the critical electoral data it stores susceptible

to corruption or destruction in the lead-up to and aftermath of Dec 31,

1999.

Non-Y2K-compliant computers have internal clock mechanisms that

read years as the last two digits only. At the turn of the millennium, non-Y2K

compliant computers will read the year 2000 as "00", causing illogical,

unpredictable computer behavior.

Officials at AUSAID, which provided the

necessary funds to make the computer operational for the 1998 national

elections, have made it clear that any funding for the commune elections is

dependent on the successful passage of the Commune Election Draft

Law.

Sorasak Pan, Under-Secretary of State for the Council of Ministers

and National Election Computer Center (NECC) Deputy Director Chea Sok Huor, who

raised the alarm about the Y2K threat to the National Election Computer in

March, warn that Y2K complications could wreak havoc on vital data stored within

the computer.

"The National Election Computer contains 5.4 million names

and records [of potential voters]", Sorasak explained. "Those records took

almost 400 people working 24-hour days for three months to input."

Both

Sorasak and Huor advocate the acquisition of a completely new computer system to

bridge the Y2K threat as well as provide the NECC with state-of-the-art

computing capabilities.

"This system is from the early nineties and has

lasted almost ten years," Sorasak said. "We want a system that will last for the

next ten years."

In the meantime, Sorasak and Huor warn that time is

running out to provide even short-term measures to protect the current computer

from the Y2K threat.

"For safety's sake, any upgrade of the [computer]

system should be done before 2000," Sorasak said. At the very least, a Y2K

"patch" must be done on the current system by the end of the year if it is

decided to use it for the commune elections."

According to Sorasak and

Huor, even a Y2K "patch" to safeguard the National Election Computer from

potential corruption or destruction of data will take "between three and six

months" and cost "approximately $500,000".

A more extensive computer

upgrade would take a minimum of 13 months to complete.

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