Alston snubs Web conference

The Federal Minister for Information Economy, Senator Richard Alston, is snubbing the world's most prestigious Web conference by reneging on a commitment to attend it.

"It is massively disappointing," said Dr Allan Ellis, co-chairman of the Seventh International World Wide Web conference (WWW7).

"You have to wonder where his department has its focus if it can't see a golden opportunity to focus the international community on Australian issues at a conference of this size and importance."

Due to open April 14 in Brisbane, the five-day conference expects 3500 IT delegates from 25 countries, including Internet legends such as Web co-founder Tim Berners-Lee and Java developer James Gosling.

The Minister for Communications, Information Economy and the Arts gave no specific reason for abandoning his long-standing commitment to deliver a conference keynote address, Ellis said.

A spokesman for Alston said the minister would be attending a Canberra Summit conference on electronic commerce rather than WWW7.

In place of Alston's cancelled keynote, the conference will be given a European perspective from a European Union official.

"This may be the only time this conference is held here and it is a pity we won't have a senior Australian politician to get up in front of it and voice what Australia is doing," Ellis said.

Other keynote speakers include:

* Xing Li, deputy director of the China Education and Research Network and one of China's Internet pioneers, who will talk about the education and business models taking shape around the Internet in that country;* Paul Saffo, technology pundit and director of the US-based Institute for the Future;* John Patrick, IBM Internet technology vice president and a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium.

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