Academics join virtual think tank for change in tech policy

Summary:A new site has launched to invite academics to debate and argue tech policy to influence positive change in the industry

(Updated 20:05 GMT, see below) A new website sponsored and hosted by Microsoft has launched to enable academics to discuss technology policy. By discussing areas of intellectual property, cloud computing, open-source technology, antitrust issues and economic development, the sole aim is to promote academic research to debate these topics further.

With academic freedom being one of the most important educational issues of our time, along with governmental policy evangelising the ever-changing future of the industry, this site will attempt to voice the issues to government and policy makers.

The site takes contributions from academics at UC Berkeley, Harvard, Chicago Law School, Stanford Law School and the University of Colorado. By aligning academics with one of the major players in the industry, it will attain a more balanced political persuasion.

On the other hand, ironic as it may be, Microsoft has seen their fair share of court appearances through most of the issues they ask academics to discuss. One cannot help but feeling on some level, they seem to be lining up academics to fight from their corner.

Provided Microsoft maintain a level of neutrality in this site, which has already been somewhat compromised by affiliating and sponsoring the project, it removes them from harms way of accusations of bias and negative industry persuasion.

Update: Microsoft assure me that they pay for the maintenance of the site, yet have no interaction with the writings of the independent academics, as "writings by academics are not edited, censored or restricted in any way". While some of the academics have even testified in court against the corporation, they still see this as an opportunity to help politicise the issues facing the industry.

While it is admirable to use industry power and academic sway to further governmental policy in the right direction as seen by those who know the industry, Microsoft in this instance, it avoids specifically focusing on technology policy which would benefit the educational system.

However, on the face of it, Microsoft is using the influence it has as a major player in the wider technological community to discuss these issues on an academic level, and furthering their citizenship portfolio for the benefit of the next-generation.

Update: Microsoft got in touch. I asked specifically whether this be seen as a subtle push towards "advancing the dialogue of issues affecting" Microsoft, and not just the wider industry:

"Issues like privacy, cyber security and cloud computing are so multi-layered, they run throughout practically every aspect of the technology industry. We acknowledge that Microsoft has a concern about how such policy develops, but so does every other company that engages in the technology field, including our competitors.

We think it's an important and valuable goal to try to spur policy makers on critical policy matters, matters that will have a long-term impact on the future of technological innovation.

Had we created a website that focused narrowly on Microsoft's views only, we would not be able to achieve that objective. We have tried as best we can to create a legitimate forum of diverse voices from a broad range of nationally recognized scholars at some of the nation's top institutions."

Topics: CXO, Microsoft

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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