Brown Calls On Tech Knights Sugar And Berners-Lee

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The beleaguered Brown government has turned to the man credited with developing the web, and the founder of Amstrad

Gordon Brown has announced the appointment of two of the UK’s biggest tech industry figures Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Alan Sugar to help his government better engage with the Internet and boost its business credentials.

But the appointment of Berners-Lee, who is apparently going to help the government better engage with the populace via the Internet, follows the recent resignation of the Minister For Digital Engagement Tom Watson who left amid Gordon Brown’s recent reshuffle.

In a statement released this week, the Prime Minister announced that Berners-Lee has been appointed as an expert adviser on “public information delivery”. Specifically, the web inventor will lead a panel of experts that will help the government “create a single online point of access for government held public data and develop proposals to extend access to data from the wider public sector,” the government said.

Berners-Lee will also be tasked with helping the government better engage with citizens via the Internet.

“So that Government information is accessible and useful for the widest possible group of people, I have asked Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who led the creation of the world wide web, to help us drive the opening up of access to Government data in [Sic] the web over the coming months,” the Prime Minister said in a statement.

Commenting on the appointment of Berners-Lee, Tom Steinberg, founder of MySociety.org, a foundation dedicated to helping UK citizens better engage with government via the Internet said he welcomed the announcement. “I think that it’s great to have such an eminent and successful name associated with the cause, and I wish him luck,” he said.

Andrew Stott, recently appointed director of Digital Engagement at the Cabinet Office, welcomed the appointment of Berners-Lee which follows the recent resignation of Minister For Digital Engagement, Tom Watson. “I’m delighted to be working with Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his panel on this key part of the Power of Information agenda; they will provide the expert challenge and insight we need to drive action across the public sector.”

It emerged last week that Tom Watson was set to resign amid the government’s recent reshuffle. Watson posted his resignation letter on his blog in which he thanked Gordon Brown for his leadership but said that being part of the government had placed too much strain on his family.

“The sense of privilege I have felt as one of your Ministers since 2007 hardly needs stating. But I also want to tell you what an enormous pleasure it has been. In 18 months at the Cabinet Office I would like to think that I have helped our government to think about information in new and better ways. I have tried to be a champion for the digital community, where lie some of our best and brightest talents and much of our nation’s future success,” Watson wrote.

Watson plans to continue to serve as MP for West Bromwich but as well as spending more time with his family appears to be exploring other activities including sharpening up his programming skills, according to his blog. “I’ve just ordered: Learn to Program Using Ruby, by Chris Pine. Sure, it’s just a primer but the last time I coded, it was in Sinclair BASIC,” he wrote.

As well as calling on the kudos of Berners-Lee, Gordon Brown has also called in some help in the shape of another UK tech industry and business heavyweight – Sir Alan Sugar. The founder of UK computing company Amstrad, and star of BBC TV series The Apprentice, has been hired on as an “enterprise champion”.

To prevent any conflict of interest Sugar will apparently be stepping back from day to day involvement in his businesses interests which include chairing IT hardware maker Viglen.

Berners-Lee will be working alongside Nigel Shadbolt, professor of artificial intelligence (AI) and deputy head (Research) of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.