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Embedded chips push up HA millennium bug costs

HIGHWAYS AGENCY'S estimate of the amount it will have to spend to tackle the year 2000 Millennium Bug climbed by £10M between November and March.

The revelation appears in Managing the Millennium Threat II, a National Audit Office report on the public sector's progress in tackling the threat of disruption caused by the failure of computers and electronic equipment which cannot tell the year 2000 and the year 1900 apart.

The report explains that the Agency's first estimates had only considered the costs of tackling the problem as it affected information technology systems, such as personal and main frame computers used to run the business.

The new figures now include the more serious threat of failure of traffic lights and motorway signs. These use in-built or 'embedded' calendar chips and, the report says, caused the cost estimate to jump from £4.3M to £14.3M.

The NAO emphasises the need to ensure that government agencies and department plans take into account the cost of dealing with embedded systems failures .

The advice follows a warning last year from Action 2000, a Department of Trade & Industry task force that 'the consequences of failure of embedded systems could be far reaching and even dangerous'.

But the Agency denied there had been a sudden increase in its estimates and said the NAO was wrong to quote the £4.3M as an original estimate. A spokesman claimed: 'The £4.3M figure was submitted to the Cabinet Office as an estimate for internal IT systems only and was never considered a total estimate.'

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