The first ever Wi-Fi network in the House of Commons will go online on Monday, but only for one day as part of a seminar on how politicians can use Weblogs, or 'blogs', to communicate with their constituents.
Over 100 bloggers, politicians and journalists are expected to attend the "Can Weblogs change politics?" seminar, which has been organised by VoxPolitics, an online think-tank dedicated to investigating the impact of new technology on politics.
The event represents a number of milestones, according to organiser James Crabtree, who founded VoxPolitics and will be chairing the session. "This is the first time there has been a public debate about blogging in any national parliament and the first time there has been a publicly available Wi-Fi network in, as far as I know, in any national parliament, but certainly the first time in Westminster," said Crabtree.
However, much to the disapproval of Crabtree, the wireless network will be shut down immediately after the event. "This is for one night only -- the Wi-Fi network will not be there on Tuesday, but it bloody well should be."
One of the first MPs to keep a Weblog is Tom Watson, member for West Bromwich East, who will be speaking at the seminar.
According to Crabtree, Watson is leading the way when it comes to technology-savvy politicians: "This is about trying to get politicians who are struggling to come to terms with email to think about what they can do next to communicate with the people -- and we think blogs are a way of doing this. In 1995, one MP had a Web site, and now all MPs have them. In 2003, two MPs have web logs, but eventually all MPs will have them. Tom Watson is to be congratulated as the first of a new breed of politicians using new media in the right way," said Crabtree.
There is a chance, however, that stringent security in the House will restrict Internet access from the temporary Westminster hot-spot. "If we can gain access to the House of Commons network, we will run a full Wi-Fi network that anyone in the room will be able to use," said Crabtree, who has two contingency plans -- just in case. If the network is unable to use Internet access through the House of Commons network, 3G phones will provide limited bandwidth to the open Internet. Failing that, the network will still be deployed, but will only allow attendees to communicate with each other over an internal chat server.