SBA creates virtual class to teach 2000 lessons

The Small Business Administration is finishing work on an online virtual classroom to
help small businesses deal with their year 2000 problems.


The virtual classroom is part of an overall effort organized by the President’s
Council on the Year 2000 Conversion. The Clinton administration last month spearheaded a
National Y2K Action Week to get year 2000 information out to the public, and, especially,
small and medium-sized businesses [GCN, Oct. 12, Page 8].


As a highlight of the action week, President Clinton signed the Year 2000 Information
and Readiness Disclosure Act, S 2392, also known as the Year 2000 Good Samaritan Bill. The
bill creates an antitrust exemption for businesses, governments and other organizations
that want to share proprietary year 2000 tools and information.


The awareness campaign also featured public-service announcements in newspapers and on
radio.


The Postal Service used a special postage cancellation during the action week to raise
year 2000 awareness.


The effort affects federal organizations that contract with small and medium-sized
businesses, SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez said at a press conference at Commerce
Department headquarters.


“Twenty-three percent of all federal contracts go to small businesses by
law,” Alvarez said. “There is definitely interaction.”


Businesses that already deal with the federal government are more aware of the issue
than are many other small and medium-sized businesses, she said.


John A. Koskinen, chairman of the president’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion,
said he thinks that “ultimately, we’ll get all of our systems to operate
well.”


As part of the mobilization effort, SBA hosted about 500 events during the last two
weeks of October, Alvarez said. In addition, the Agriculture Department is using its
nationwide network of county extension offices to inform the public.


SBA’s virtual classroom, located on the Web at http://www.sba.gov, will offer six
courses, said Jim O’Connor, deputy associate administrator for SBA’s Small
Business Development Center Program.


The interactive year 2000 program, developed in conjunction with Princeton Center
Educational Services Inc. of Pennington, N.J., will have both audio and video guides when
it goes live later this month.


“It’s designed for a small businessperson,” O’Connor said, and it
includes a self-test quiz. Other courses will cover how to design a business plan, how to
start a small business and how to raise capital.


“The initial intention is for all these courses to be a primer,” said Don
Martin, vice president for business development for Princeton Center.   

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