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Jimbo Wales 'to advise Whitehall on transparency'

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In what may prove to be a political gift to Labour, Wikipedia's spiritual leader Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales has been hired to advise Whitehall on openness and transparency.

Rohan Silva, the No 10 advisor whose brainchild is rebranding the leisure startups of Shoreditch as "TechCity", announced the news at the SXSW conference and festival in Austin, Texas. The Telegraph notes that it's an unpaid post.

The choice may strike some as a curious one. Governments regularly appoint business celebrities to lead "reviews" - whose conclusions that can then be ignored - as publicity stunts. But typically the retained shleb has some expertise in the field. Appointing Wales, however, is rather like putting foxes in charge of hen security.

Wikipedia notoriously allows participants to hide behind a pseudonym, and conceal their real-life identity - with utterly predictable consequences. In one delicious example we highlighted here, Wikipedia's own system for flagging up "conflicts of interest" was led by someone with a quite amazing conflict of interest of their own - as a student of Guru Maharaj Ji, the founder of the Divine Light Mission and a self-styled "Lord of the Universe", whose organisation is widely recognised as a cult or former cult.

On a more mundane level hundreds of curious administrative decisions receive far less attention.

Wales cares little; but then, as he bluntly points out, "we aren't democratic".

Jimmy Wales

The appointment of the Wales follows a pattern. Public sector "futurist" Ben Hammersley was appointed "No 10's Ambassador to TechCity" and is cashing in by giving walking tours around the nontrepreneurs' premises.

What appears to be happening is that advisors are ensuring the bureaucracy is as ideologically motivated as they are. It is hard to imagine Hammersley walking into No 10 and announcing, "I'm sorry, Rohan, but these Shoreditch startups really are a joke. They don't do anything interesting or useful, and they will never make any money. We should pull the plug right away."

It's equally hard to envisage Wales turning to the politicians, who have a real job tackling their own ideologically-motivated and unaccountable bureaucrats, and showing them how to clean up the house. He has, in effect, presided over the world's least accountable distributed bureaucracy. ®

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