Front runner Ann Edwards



Ann Edwards is an IT project manager who advises governments and negotiates with the World Bank. When vital systems in East Africa survive the great date...



Ann Edwards is an IT project manager who advises governments and negotiates with the World Bank. When vital systems in East Africa survive the great date change, much of the credit will be hers.

For the past two years Edwards has been a senior consultant for global UK firm Empower Dynamics in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, leading year 2000 systems work.

"These countries have strong links to the UK and look to us for help and support," she says.

"They're not heavily computerised. Kenya has the biggest commercial sector, mainly PC-based. There aren't many mainframes, but the few that there are tend to be owned by the Government and are critical to the national infrastructure, for example revenue systems and pay systems - including the military.

"But there are a large number of embedded systems, as the region has in recent years upgraded areas such as electricity, water purification, telecommunications, air traffic control, railway switching systems, oil pumping and hospital systems to include digital equipment.

"We have concentrated on embedded systems where they can be found - and where money can be found for the work, and on developing contingency plans in case money can't be found and we lose whole chunks of the infrastructure."

Her work has involved identifying relevant bodies in each country, presenting arguments at cabinet level, establishing national programmes and "arguing the toss with the World Bank", as she puts it, with some success - each country got $100,000 for initial planning.

She persuaded the UK Department of International Development to provide project managers for each country and ran a model project herself, which could be copied so that local people could develop the necessary skills and get the work done.

Some of the work went across frontiers, covering transport, finance, communications and power.

She is passionate about the work that has been done. "None of the countries can afford a total remedy, but they have all worked their socks off on an issue which has taxed the UK and the US.

"The key national and cross-border sectors are now all in good shape, and in any case the region is highly resilient, as it already experiences failures in services such as electricity and is geared up to coping with such failures. The year 2000 outcome we expect is 'business as usual'," Edwards says.

This was last published in January 2000

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