Brown Fixer Looks to Nurture Digital Work; AS the Government Draws Up an Action Plan to Safeguard the Future of Our Digital Sector, Andrew Mernin Asks Players in the North East about the Issues That Need to Be Tackled. Technology

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Byline: Andrew Mernin

IF you have a problem, if no one else can help and if you can find him, you can call in Mr Fixit - also known as Stephen Carter.

The former Downing Street strategy director has been charged with drawing up an action plan to safeguard the country's digital industries.

The new Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting will draft a report, Digital Britain, to look at "a range of issues affecting internet users, such as user security and safety and a workable approach to promoting content standards".

He will "consider what future legislative and non-legislative measures are required to support the development of these critical sectors", says the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The plan will be published next year with the aim of accelerating growth and consolidating the UK's position as a knowledge economy world leader.

Lord Carter said: "Our ambition is to see Digital Britain as the leading major economy for innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications industries. We will seek to bring forward a unified framework to help maximise the UK's competitive advantage and the benefits to society."

New Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: "For the present financial and banking crisis, Britain must get through the worst and prepare for the upturn. The digital economy will be central to this. The Digital Britain report will lead the way."

So, as Lord Carter gets to work on the report, which could hugely influence the technology industry, what are the hindrances to the North East digital community which need addressed?

We asked players what changes they would like to see.

LAW

BOB ELLIOTT heads the intellectual property, technology and IT practice at Crutes law firm in Newcastle and also sits on the legal panel of the UK domain name authority Nominet. He believes there are several problematic legal issues that need to be addressed by the Government.

He said: "There are a number of legal issues which frequently already arise from the internet and its use, such as misuse of copyright works by file sharing or using photographs or video material put up on the web without the author's consent. There are also libellous comments on chat room websites, invasion of privacy and misuse of trade marks. However, many of these are global problems, not just associated with the UK, and UK action by way of legislation is unlikely to improve competitiveness in those areas.

"It's unrealistic to expect the UK to be able to legislate on its own in areas where global solutions need to be found, or in areas such as consumer protection or trademarks, where the EU takes the lead and legislation is generally harmonised throughout the EU.

"I have no particular axe to grind, but my priorities for the Government would be to continue to maintain a balance which will give protection to the interests of copyright owners, whilst at the same time not stifling legitimate internet usage by over-regulation, and to continue to be flexible in dealing with the continual new developments in this field."

TRADE

CARRI Cunliffe is head of sector development at Codeworks Connect, the trade association for the North East's digital sector.

She urges the Government to ensure British technology businesses are encouraged to stay on these shores.

She said: "Access to better technology and higher speed broadband is crucial to the UK economy and the Government, thankfully, sees this as a priority.

"The average Briton now spends 50 hours per week on the phone, using the net, watching TV or listening to the radio, according to a report by Ofcom last year.

"However, we need to make sure that the providers of this technology and content, and the people with skills in these areas, are here in the UK.

"In order to do this we need to invest in skills from school through to higher education. …