Chicken Licken and the millennium bug

Writing about technology for the past year or so reminded me of Chicken Licken, the unfortunate chick who was hit on the head by an acorn and started a farmyard panic that the sky was falling.

Shocked out of his slumber, he ran, wings a-flappin’, to warn his friend Henny Penny. They got a posse together, including Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky and Turkey Lurkey, to go and warn the King the sky was falling.

Taskforce 2000’s Robin Guenier should be congratulated for popularising the millennium date-change problem, but the shock of discovery appears to have frightened journalists, business people and politicians back to the fairytale farmyard.

Of course, we must tell the King, but civil service protocol demands we stop first at the Department of Trade and Industry. Under the previous government, the DTI set up Guenier’s Taskforce 2000.

The new government launched its own #1m millennium bug campaign, Action 2000. Trade minister Ian McCartney and his feathered friends at the DTI let accountants know they should do more to tackle the bug.

They flapped around to the Accounting Standards Board and warned the sky would fall unless its urgent issues task force reached a consensus on how to account for year 2000 provisions.

Chicken big-wigs like Tony Blair and US president Bill Clinton started taking an interest. Blair made the millennium a personal crusade and this week unveiled his #97m master plan.

Some #70m will be channelled through training and enterprise councils to train 20,000 ‘bug-busters’ to help small businesses. A further #17m will go into Action 2000’s budget and the government will give #10m to a World Bank fund to tackle the problem in developing countries.

This month’s Tax Bulletin also reveals that year 2000 remedial work will qualify for relief by being written off against revenues. But, on closer inspection, the policy is still more flap than action.

Compare the level of investment in fixing the millennium bug, for example, to the cost of farmer Mandelson’s #750m Dome. And given the 19-month deadline, TECs will struggle to recruit and train enough busters.

The tale of Chicken Licken did not have a happy ending. The frenzied fowl ran straight into Foxy Loxy’s lair and never made it to tell the King.

The moral of the tale is that having failed to carry out a methodical impact analysis or assess the risk of further acorn strikes, Chicken Licken’s response was not appropriate.

It still worries me that we will fall into the same trap come 1 January 2000.

Oh, and one more point: THE SKY IS FALLING!

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