Federal Bytes

Practice what you preach. The 1998 World Congress on Information Technology, partially funded by the federal government, convened with much fanfare last week at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. The conference's impressive roster of speakers included industry gurus Larry Ellison and Michael Dell and former world leaders Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev, all gathered in one place to talk about how technology has transformed the world.

Unfortunately, people planning the event did not manage to post an hour-by-hour schedule of speakers on the World Wide Web. Apparently technology still hasn't done much to transform conference planning.

Conversely, Vice President Al Gore made an appearance via videoconference from Washington, D.C. This strikes us as using technology for its own sake, considering that Fairfax is only about 20 minutes away from the White House.

The high cost of e-mail. When pondering the advantages of information technology at a recent Senate Governmental Affairs Committee meeting, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) noted that e-mail allows him to communicate with his daughter, who is attending college in England, much less expensively than it had cost his parents to communicate with him while he was in college.

A few minutes later, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, director of the National Security Agency, also noted that he communicates via e-mail with his daughter at college. Unfortunately, he noted that despite the advantages of technology, it still costs him to communicate with his child in this manner. Why? Because she always asks for money, Minihan told the committee members.

Y2K: the book. It was only a matter of time before the first fictional account of the Year 2000 problem hit the bookshelves. We recently received a copy of Y2K— It's Already Too Late, an exploitative and alarmist account of the forthcoming apocalypse, by author Jason Kelly. In Kelly's clumsily written account, Y2K is a problem for the Defense Department, which finds itself crippled as the Chinese navy, which apparently has no Y2K issues, seizes an opportunity to invade Hawaii.

The book is crammed with additional nightmare scenarios: widespread rioting, food shortages and stopped pacemakers. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Kelly's vision is an appearance by Rush Limbaugh as the only media figure who is giving the masses the real story on Y2K.

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