Launch Press Release
New Independent Research Foundation Backed By Microsoft
Too often, policy issues relating to information technology are separately debated by two distinct groups: technology experts and those focused on social concerns. Policy makers face the challenge of reconciling theseparate debates in areas where technology is often evolving very quickly. A new research foundation aims to provide clear advice that spans this gap and isindependent of vested interests.
The Foundation for Information Policy Research will fund research into how information technology affects society. It is launched at a press conference on Friday 29th May at 11.00 am.
Microsoft has contributed a six-figure sum to cover the launch costs. Internet Service Providers Poptel and Demon are also providing support. The Foundation's independence will be guaranteed, however, by a board of trustees. In the medium term it will be supported by subscriptions from a range of firms in commerce and industry.
The goal of the Foundation is to promote research and understanding of the effects, and the likely future effects, of IT on society. Its areas of investigation include:
The Foundation will also provide a valuable resource for thepress as it will be able to put journalists in touch with a wide range of experts who can explain IT issues as they arise.
The Director of the Foundation, Caspar Bowden, said: "The IT policies (and failures) which the current government inherited, and the decisions which will be made by them in the future, will have far-reaching effects on who society's winners and losers will be. We have a duty to prevent technological innovation and development taking place at the expense of the poor, the old, the sick and the disabled. We believe that so long as we understand the social and policy implications of new technical innovations, we can make IT into a means to facilitate social inclusion. The Foundation's mission will be to achieve and to spread that understanding."
The Chair of the Foundation, Ross Anderson of Cambridge University, said "We welcome this new source of funding for IT related research. An increase in the diversity of funding sources is almost always a good thing, and the Foundation will be particularly valuable as much of the available IT funding is directed to very short-term and narrowly technical agendas."
The Managing Director of Microsoft UK, David Svendsen, said:"It's important that we contribute to a broad and informed public discussion on these information society issues."
The "Millennium Bug" - the problem that many computers cannot deal correctly with the date roll-over from 1999 to 2000 - threatens to cause havoc with many systems and has been declared a national emergency by thePrime Minister.
Another problem that has worried policymakers and concerned citizens is that new developments in IT may discriminate against the less well off members of society. For example, the current mechanisms for electronic commerce depend on consumers using their credit cards to order goods and services over the net. They often get a big discount for buying this way; but people without credit cards may lose out.
The first task that the Foundation has set itself is to examine the underpinnings of electronic commerce. The European Commission has recently published a draft Directive on this subject and will launch a period of public consultation at the same conference at which the Foundation itself will be launched. (The draft directive is here).
Other topics that the Foundation plans to investigate include:
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The Foundation for Information Policy Research is registered in England and Wales under the Companies Act 1985 as a private company limited by guarantee (No.3574631). Application for charitable status is in progress.
Last Revised: June 22 1999