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Alexander steps down from dubious position

E-minister leaves web group, launches scheme

E-commerce and competition minister Douglas Alexander has launched a series of 'new' schemes as part of his long term plan to ensure every man and his dog joins the broadband revolution.

At yesterday's Building Britain's Brainpower conference in London, Alexander (pictured) questioned IT experts and entrepreneurs about the skills needed to work in the IT sector.

"Broadband technology is central to meeting the needs of the growing knowledge economy," said Alexander, pushing his campaign at any opportunity.

"Over a third of people employed in the IT industry didn't go to university. We need to address why not and look at whether the education system has let them down," said a DTI spokesman. "The point of the conference is to discuss what things need to be done to achieve the real skills needed."

Yesterday also saw Alexander step down as chairman of the Broadband Stakeholders Group, which last year put forward a series of recommendations for the universal rollout of fast internet access. He is succeeded by former ICL chief executive Keith Todd.

As BSG chairman, Alexander came in for criticism for rejecting many of his own proposals when speaking on behalf of the DTI. But the DTI said Alexander was always only acting chairman (even though they forgot to tell anyone) and it was "always looking for an impartial person to replace him".

Last week Alexander announced a further £95,000 of government funding for a new research programme 'to collate information across the nation on broadband content development projects'.

But millions of pounds worth of designated broadband development funds have been gathering dust (or rather accruing interest) since the start of last year.

The £30m fund has been announced twice and has been allocated to different 'development agencies' across the country, but there has been almost no news on how it has been spent or even if it has been spent.

"We will release a statement on this imminently," said the DTI's spokesman, "but I am not prepared to give any details until then." But the DTI admitted the money has thus far merely been 'allocated'.

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