EDS sets precedent for Y2K info sharing

With the Clinton administration pushing for high-tech vendors to share more information on the status of their products, Electronic Data Systems Corp. this month announced the creation of what the company described as the world's largest database of Year 2000-compliance information.

The Vendor 2000 project provides a World Wide Web-based database of more than 129,000 hardware and software products from more than 3,400 vendors, accessible through a browser interface. The database provides full search capabilities as well as the ability to view the complete listing of products or vendors.

John McCain, EDS president of CIO Services, said the company is offering the Vendor 2000 database "as a public service [to help] all organizations, governments and individuals around the world" reach their Year 2000 compliance goals more quickly.

Vendor 2000 also tracks product lines that have been sold from one vendor to another and provides users with pointers to the new product owner's Web site. The 129,000 products tracked by the system represent "a drop in the bucket" of the products on the market, said Joe Allison, the Vendor 2000 database manager.

The creation of Vendor 2000 comes as the Clinton administration is attempting to stimulate sharing of information by throwing its weight behind the Year 2000 Information Disclosure Act, or "Good Samaritan bill," which would extend legal protections to companies willing to share Year 2000-compliance information.

"What EDS has done...is make it substantially easier and more efficient" to locate Year 2000-compliant products, said John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. "A Web site like this will cut a substantial amount of time and effort out" of the process, he said.

However, the administration believes industry as a whole will remain reluctant to share information without the legal protection provided by the Good Samaritan bill. "No one feels comfortable without the protection that the statute would provide," said Koskinen, who expects the Good Samaritan bill to reach the Senate floor in the next few days. "The question is whether [or not] we can get unanimous consent in the Senate. It's a long shot."

Olga Grkavac, senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Systems Integration Division, said Vendor 2000 "really was an effort on the part of EDS to set an example of the Good Samaritan legislation." Despite legal concerns expressed by some in industry, EDS' willingness to share the information in the database with anybody who wants it is "really commendable," Grkavac said.

But Koskinen pointed out that time is running out and that the failure to share Year 2000-compliance information across government and industry has been one of the administration's greatest concerns.

Grkavac agrees with Koskinen's assessment. "Time is the greatest enemy of the legislation...and there's not much time left," she said.

Web Alert:

For more information about Vendor 2000 and the Good Samaritan bill, click on Web Alert at www.fcw.com.

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