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Government gets WIFfy in the midday sun

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Wired Prime Minster Tony Blair has given his personal backing to a global talking shop designed to bring people together to discuss the issues facing the development of the Net.

Mr Blair wasn't present at today's briefing at the London Eye which confirmed that HSBC, Network Appliance and British Airways were among a number of companies providing financial backing for the World Internet Forum.

Which is just as well, or he too would have cooked like a chicken on a rotisserie spit in the heat of the midday sun as he endured half-an-hour in a giant glass bubble. Speaking at today's briefing Derek Wyatt MP, said: "The Internet is challenging the fundamental basis of democracy.

"We haven't fully understood what the Net can do for Government," he said.

As reported last year, WIF is seeking to become a focal point of best practice in government for the development of Internet services.

With a global agenda, not only is WIF looking to help governments devise new ways of using the technology, it is also hoped it will tackle major cross-border issues such as online libel and spam.

Wyatt said: "Governments around the world are lagging behind industry in their understanding and adoption of Internet technology. This needs to change."

It's clear that as the driving force behind WIF, Wyatt has some very strong views about how the Net and technology can be used to the benefit of ordinary people. However, translating that passion into action will be far harder even for this most switched-on politician.

WIF is to be held in London in November. Vancouver will host the event in 2001 followed by Melbourne the following year. ®

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