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NIST's Y2K Outreach

As the countdown to the year 2000 continues, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is reaching out to organizations and individuals across the nation with practical information about the year 2000 problem. Working with industry sector groups through the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion, NIST is educating small businesses and other enterprises about the risks associated with Y2K and helping them take action by connecting them with available tools and technical assistance.

As part of the Department of Commerce, NIST is actively supporting the Y2K Council’s outreach efforts to the private sector. In particular, NIST supports Commerce’s efforts to reach the Y2K Science and Technology Working Group, which is co-chaired by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. NIST also works closely with the Small Business Administration on the Y2K Small Business Working Group.


Outreach to Small Business

Y2K Workshops: Through its nationwide network of centers and offices, NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership is offering action-planning, assessment, and remediation project planning workshops—even specialized help in dealing with embedded chips and developing contingency plans. Since Commerce Secretary William Daley announced the launch of this national initiative in May 1998, the initiative has broadened into a partnership with the SBA and the Department of Agriculture and has reached thousands of smaller manufacturers, farms, and other small businesses at seminars throughout the nation.

Y2K Jumpstart Kit: NIST has gathered everything a small business needs to get going on a year 2000 project into a Y2K Jumpstart Kit, including software known as Conversion 2000: Y2K Self-Help Tool. This software is helping small businesses conduct an inventory of equipment; identify core business systems and rate their importance to the survival of the business; develop contingency plans; and plan and manage remediation projects. Developed by MEP, the software is available in both Microsoft Access™ and Excel™ versions. The Y2K Jumpstart Kit also includes a quick start guide, a detailed user’s guide for the software, and a self-assessment checklist to help a small business determine whether its computer systems and equipment or those of its suppliers may have Y2K problems.

State Core Teams: In nearly every state, inter-agency Y2K core teams are being formed in order to coordinate Y2K outreach strategies. NIST’s MEP centers are working with their local counterparts in the SBA’s Small Business Development Centers and USDA field offices and with state governments. Through a series of training conferences, field staff from USDA, SBA, and others were trained by NIST MEP in detailed Y2K issues. The field staff then were equipped to conduct in-depth Y2K seminars for their constituents across the country.

Y2K Help Center for Small Business: This technical support center helps users of the Y2K Jumpstart Kit. The Y2K Help Center for Small Business also helps small businesses to determine whether their computer products and equipment will have a year 2000 date problem by providing information on equipment manufacturers’ and vendors’ databases that contain Y2K compliance information. The help center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday and offers help by phone at 800-Y2K-7557, by email to y2khelp@nist.gov, and on the web at http://y2khelp.nist.gov. The help center assists callers in English and Spanish.

Y2K Action Weeks: Field offices of the Department of Commerce (including NIST’s MEP), SBA, USDA, and other agencies of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion sponsored Y2K seminars and press events to educate small businesses in their local communities. As part of Y2K Action Weeks, NIST’s MEP centers nationwide were encouraged to use template news releases and other materials to highlight Y2K issues affecting small businesses.

Y2K Training Video: In October 1998, NIST’s MEP distributed to its centers videotaped copies of a nearly three-hour training program entitled “Y2K Computer Issues: What Does It Mean to the Small and Mid-Sized Business?” This program was available to enhance the training resources of the MEP centers and field offices to reach more small manufacturers.

Y2K Events: Speakers representing NIST and MEP affiliates have participated in many Y2K events nationwide with governors, members of Congress, association leaders, and others to encourage action on the Y2K problem in small businesses and local communities.

Database of Y2K-Compliant Equipment: In November 1998, NIST announced additional help for small manufacturers in checking Y2K compliance in factory-floor equipment. NIST helped to arrange specially priced access to databases of Y2K-compliant equipment. TAVA Technologies, Inc., then trained NIST’s MEP centers on using TAVA’s database of factory-floor automation equipment that is Y2K compliant.


General Outreach to Industry

Y2K Web Site: NIST’s Y2K web site (www.nist.gov/y2k), which is linked to an icon on the NIST home page, offers free software and tools to assist in assessing year 2000 problems, Y2K assistance for small businesses, documents on year 2000 solutions and testing, slide shows for use in preparing informative sessions on Y2K awareness, and links to other year 2000 web sites.

Free Y2K Software: Software tools developed by NIST, such as the FINDDATE program that searches programs for possible date occurrences and the Unravel program slicing tool that works on C programs, are available for free from the NIST Y2K web site (www.nist.gov/y2k).

Date Standard for Federal Government: In December 1998, NIST updated the Federal Information Processing Standard that details how to represent calendar dates in information processing systems. The revised standard, FIPS PUB 4-2, specifies the use of a four-digit date format to represent the calendar year and adopts the voluntary standard developed by the private sector and approved by the American National Standards Institute. The original FIPS on calendar date representation was published in 1968 and revised in 1996 to recommend use of the four-digit date format by the federal government to prepare its systems for Y2K. FIPS are used by federal agencies to guide decision making related to the purchase of computer equipment and services. Some private-sector organizations voluntarily adopt them as well.

Standards Efforts: NIST participates in standards development work relating to the Y2K problem. By working closely with the American National Standards Institute, the National Committee for Information Technology Standardization, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and others, NIST helps to ensure that the technical specifications needed for fixing the problem are available.

Checking the Time: In November 1998, NIST’s Time and Frequency Division announced it is offering online checks of time-setting software for Y2K compatibility. The service sends the exact time to any computer that requests it but transmits dates that are exactly 2 years in the future. The time of day will be correct and is directly traceable to the NIST atomic clock. The service will run until the end of 1999.

Information Bulletins: NIST’s Information Technology Laboratory issues periodic bulletins on Y2K issues, which are distributed at trade shows and by direct mail and are available on NIST’s Y2K web site. ITL bulletins raising Y2K awareness (March 1996), comparing solutions (May 1998), and explaining Y2K compliance (December 1998) help to educate consumers.

Y2K Symposium: NIST hosted the “International Symposium on the Year 2000: Mastering the Millennium Rollover” in June 1997. The symposium educated nearly 400 participants through a keynote address by Rep. Connie Morella, chairperson of the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology, as well as high-level plenary talks and industry-specific parallel sessions, with a particular emphasis on aviation.

April 1999


Last updated: 4/27/99
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