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,
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
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 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."
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
"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.