It's been over a month now since the new e-minister Douglas Alexander took his post as junior minister in the DTi. Seeing as the government has repeatedly told us how important the Internet and e-commerce is to its plans, and accounting for suggestions that Mr Alexander was little more than a political posting by chancellor Gordon Brown in return for his help in the election, we thought we'd review his performance so far.
Even taking into account the fact that Mr Alexander is finding his feet and that he has taken on a difficult ministerial role with a minimum of experience and has very limited knowledge of the IT and Internet industries, it does not make impressive viewing.
We asked the DTi to fill us in what exactly the new e-minister has been up to since 7 June and it kindly obliged. "Douglas Alexander has been involved in a busy range of engagements in his first month in the office. He has obviously had briefings with officials, including the e-envoy, from across all of his areas of responsibility. In addition, the Minister has met with key businesses from a range of sectors.
"Specific engagements you may be interested in are the Telecoms Council (27 June) or Smith Institute Seminar 'Broadcasting After the White Paper' (20 June). The Minister has also delivered speeches at the Fabian Society (3 July - this addressed 'Women and the IT Skills Gap') and at the E-Commerce Awards (5 July).
"As a priority the Minister has also been involved in discussions on the progress of Broadband rollout and communications legislation. He has also been engaged in parliamentary activity including debates and written/oral questions."
Which sounds like a good deal for the first month. In terms of official speeches though, we can only see two. We have a copy of one of these and it includes absolutely nothing of substance. We don't mean that nastily, it just doesn't.
What of his parliamentary activity? Since joining as a DTi minister, Mr Alexander has been mentioned in Hansard (Parliament's written record) a total of eight times. All of them were written answers - meaning that his department drafted them - and all but one concerned the Post Office. The one remaining written answer was the announcement of an official report by the Director General of Telecommunications.
We also asked why the e-minister did not have a dedicated Web site like the e-envoy. The official response is: "The e-commerce minister's work is already represented on the DTI website". Is it? We decided to have a look. Looking over the site, the only link that would appear to refer to e-commerce is "Information Age". This gives a lengthy rundown on the DTi and technology but we couldn't find a connection to any e-commerce information. It also still lists Patricia Hewitt as the e-commerce minister when she is in fact now the Trade Secretary.
Maybe a search on his name would herald more. Searching on "Douglas Alexander" produces 51 results. Sadly, only five of them relate to the new e-minister. Two of them point to the one speech he has made and three to his DTi biography.
We learn nothing new here apart from the fact that his interests include running and angling.
And so in answer to the question: what has the new e-minister done regarding the Internet in the first month of office? The answer is nothing at all. ®