There’s been quite a bit of comment (#deact on twitter) about Gordon Brown’s appointment to the Board of the Web Foundation. It’s been mainly negative, on account of the fact that that the DE Act is viewed by many as being a bit, er, rough around the edges. It’s passage in the Commons was certainly a hash and while there’s now some sensible engagement taking place from all sides on the issues extending from the Act with the Digital Economy all Party Group (DEAPPG), it’s fair that the former pm should bear ultimate responsibility, bad and good. And yet, it’s clear that politicians as a whole have a long way to go to understanding the implications of media and the importance of the Act. And it’s also true that it’s unlikely the DE Act was the pm’s top priority in the days before the beginning of a general election campaign.
But more important, Gordon Brown’s primary concern here is probably not the web per se, it’s the scope the web provides to help the world’s poorest. Most folk would accept that, I think. Equatorial Africa is largely excluded from the web and this mirrors it’s exclusion from most options for economic growth. Rwanda leads the way as a modernising state which stresses the importance of the web, yet even there internet access is limited to around 1% of the population. But with mobile telephone technology widespread in Africa, there really is potential for a revolutionion in internet access; one which may well largely by-pass landlines.
I spend quite a lot of time reading what people have to say about new technologies. Little of it, to be honest, is about how they have scope to help the most benighted populations in the world. Gordon Brown’s appointment has the potential to catalyse the views and action of those keen to help the world’s poorest and those interested in new technologies. There’s a big overlap on that particular Venn diagram, I’m sure.
So I think – good for the web foundation, and let’s give my old boss a break?