Michael Webster was installed as Master of The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, the 100th Livery Company of the City of London, during a formal ceremony held on Friday October 11th in London’s second oldest church (St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield). Webster takes over the role from outgoing Master, Michael Grant.
The new Master’s chosen theme for the year is “Ubiquity”. He said: “IT today is integral both to our society and our individual lives. We have many areas we can rejoice about including the speed of communication IT heralds, the ready access to knowledge it brings and the engineering breakthroughs it empowers. We see this in the advances made in medical robotics, for example, and in research to identify the human genome. However, as in most technological advances there are also downsides which are often ignored or downplayed.
“The ubiquity of information obtainable via the Internet which is exploitative of children or whose ready accessibility risks damaging human development and interactions are illustrative of these,” continues Webster. “At WCIT, we see the risks and rewards of the advance of information technology as two sides of the same coin, which we as an impartial and neutral observer, should continue to scrutinize.”
“With this theme in mind, I am seeking during my year of office to ensure greater engagement within the WCIT, its external-facing Committees and its Panels, with the outside world,” he said. “In this way, our Company can become more recognised as the ‘go to’ organisation concerning ethics in relation to IT and a better understanding of a proper IT working/humanity life balance.”
Webster will seek to achieve these goals through a focus on partnering and engaging where appropriate with other interested groups and bodies and other Livery Companies with comparable aims The Company’s working relationship with the Mercers Company, providing support for Lillian Baylis Technology School in Lambeth and the Hammersmith Academy, is a case in point, as is its recent co-operation with the British Computer Society (BCS).
He also plans to strengthen the perception of the Company as a thought-leader in the IT arena by initiating a series of high-level debates on hot topics and issues relating to the IT industry.
A long-term supporter of technology businesses as a mentor, investor and legal advisor, Webster has been a member of the WCIT for 20 years. He served as one of the inaugural members of the Company’s Entrepreneurship Panel. In addition, he has had considerable involvement with the governance and constitutional issues of the Company and its associated Charity. During this time he worked on the Company’s application to the Privy Council for the grant of a Royal Charter, a status achieved by WCIT in 2010. At the same time, he wrote, with input from others, a paper on Legal Risk and Liability for the Company and the Charity. Most recently, as Senior Warden, he chaired the Membership Committee which produced a paper on criteria for future membership and a template for good engagement by members.
Webster is married with three children, and his interests include long distance walking in wild and remote landscapes and military history. He is an active and keen golfer and tennis player.
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