RP Postal Service "Far Behind" US To Worry About Y2K
By Gloria Jane Baylon
The panic and concern in the United States over the possible disruption the Y2K millennium bug would cause its postal services and other infrastructure is not shared by the Philippine Postal Corporation (PPC).
"Our computer system is not that highly technological to the point of us using programs that could breed the bug," admitted Maria Cristina Santiago, head of the postal service's Management Information System (MIS). Santiago said that PPC's IBM 3500 server is about the only computer hardware the service has that comes close to being possibly "bugged."
"But the servers are still under warranty and we're sure we will be protected and assisted by International Business Machines (IBM)", she said.
PPC's computerization level is narrow, unlike its American counterpart which relies heavily on automated systems to deliver an estimated 650 million pieces of mail to millions of households and businesses locally and internationally.
But until an inventory report of PPC's hardware is made by the March 8 deadline, Santiago admitted she will not know "exactly how much problem Y2K will inflict" on their services.
"Maybe we should worry about operations involving real-time clocks, such as postal dates and time," she added.
Her comments appeared relevant to what Maryland Congresswoman Connie Morella said she found after a recent trip to Indonesia and Japan. Rep. Morella expressed surprise that "most officials (she spoke to there) knew little about the Y2K problem and what their countries are doing about it."
Under Santiago's aegis, PPC created a task force last month to promote Y2K awareness in the postal service, in coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
But Santiago is concerned, however, about its international operations and agreements such as those with the Universal Postal Union (UPU). "That is one thing I have to look into," she told the Philippines News Agency, but admitted she has no specifics yet.
UPU is a specialized agency of the United Nations representing about 200 postal administrations, including both the U.S. and the Philippines.
On the other hand, the United States Postal Service (USPS) plays a key role in U.S. commerce and communications infrastructure, thus its preparedness is crucial to the nation's Y2K readiness, according to the United States Information Agency (USIA).
Because of such mammoth operations, USPS has been working on its Y2K problems since 1993, according to a Washington report of USIA. The USPS' Y2K preparedness was an issue raised last Feb. 23 at the U.S. Congress hearing.
Norman Lorentz, USPS chief technology officer, told the hearing that "if a foreign postal administration slowed down mail delivery, it would be shut off from USPS to avoid computer problems filtering into the United States."
Santiago said she does not think the Philippines would be a source of such a problem.
Karol Corcoran, USPS inspector general, also testified that to date, USPS has spent $200 million addressing Y2K concerns, and is on target to spend another $400 million to resolve already identified problems.
But in Corcoran's estimate, USPS still has some jobs to do, "to correct and test, ensure the readiness of hundreds of local facilities, and determine the ability of key suppliers."
"The problem for USPS is not so much making sure mission-critical systems work, but of ensuring that the whole work environment will function properly," noted Jack Brock, director-general of the US Government Auditing Office (GAO), who also testified. Brock is in charge of GAO's government-wide and defense information systems. (PNA) SS/gjb
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