In Phnom Penh, parts of the international and domestic telephone systems and the billing system for the city’s power may not be capable of making the leap into the next century.
“Are you frightened? You shouldn’t be,” said Long Van Han, director of the national telecommunications department when asked about the prospect of the country’s international phone lines going dead. The international gateway for international phone calls contains computer parts which––if the problem is not addressed—will shut down in the year 2000, telecom officials said.
The problem is the computer glitch “Y2K,” caused because of the way computers are programmed to handle dates. The first two digits of a year, 19, are programmed into some computers permanently. So when the year 2000 comes along, these computers will not be able to show the change and may shut down, computer experts said.
The good news is that the problem with the international gateway is expected to be fixed in time, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications officials said.
“We’ve discussed this problem in many meetings already. To facilitate our customers we are preparing for the year 2000,” Long Van Han said.
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is working with the Australian Telecommunications company Telstra to identify, evaluate and upgrade parts of the international gateway and domestic exchanges, Lar Narath, undersecretary of state for the ministry said. Telstra initiated the meetings and is “legally obligated” to solve the problem which will cost easily over $1 million, said Martin Van Eyk, Telstra operations manager.
Power officials at Electricite du Cambodge expressed some concern over the public utility’s billing system, but stressed that power would not be affected.