November 1, 2003

New SCL Initiatives

Like many of the best ideas, SCL’s latest initiatives owe a debt to the past. The first acknowledges the growing range and importance of KM; the second is double pronged and aims to engage the interest of more students.

A new Knowledge Management Interest Group is to be formed shortly. The full terms of reference are still being developed as I write but the Group will have a higher status than the former sub-group of SCL, which was itself among the most active and effective of such groups. The aim is to create an effective new Interest Group which will contribute to the establishment of best practices, sharing of insights and, in the long-term, the setting of standards.

If you are interested in being actively involved with the KM Interest Group, you should contact dave.cunningham@brco.com or visit the SCL Web site where further details have been posted. Dave Cunningham is actively looking for possible committee members and for anyone prepared to work to establish the Group.

Elsewhere in the magazine is a short announcement as to the Student IT Law Essay Prize. I think that this will spark enormous interest. I hope there is more than interest from the purely mercenary (I confess that the £1,000 prize made me wonder whether my enrolment in Spanish evening classes qualified me to try a bit of highly professional plagiarism). I look forward to fresh and insightful views from our many student readers and hope that a number are worthy of wider publication.

The second prong of the initiative is to make the SCL Web site, with its wealth of resources, available to all relevant students. Given that it is vital for a technology-related society such as SCL to remain in touch with the new, the reward should come in the form of increased feedback from student readers and, hopefully, an increase in membership once users of the site move on in their careers.

Widening Horizons

It was reported this month that the number of households with an Internet connection has now passed the 50% markSince we are now also well past the £1bn a month category for Internet-based transactions (and that’s just our house), it can safely be said that the big fat cybereagle has landed. We have articles in this issue on e-mail and the new anti-spam regulations but they are rightly approaching these matters as every-day concerns – the time has gone when the mere possession of an e-mail address made people think that you were personally acquainted with Bill Gates. We even have an excellent piece, CM = KM OK?, which treats CM as if it were a Shetland cardigan – retro but suddenly fashionable when worn in the right situation. The glory of IT is that things move on – very rapidly.

My favourite article in this issue is the piece from Philip Rees on biometrics. It is not just that I was fascinated by the concept of being identified by my sweat pores, although I was (briefly at least – one had always assumed that computers were available which were as clever as a Golden Retriever). But after the initial fascination with the application of biometrics, I was stopped short by the fact that what I thought of as technology on the very edge of the maelstrom of innovation had moved so far into the mainstream that its data protection implications were being analysed. It’s like having Eminem on Radio 2.

All of which either obscures or illustrates a simple point: it’s time for a magazine which wants to be seen as leading-edge, to widen its horizons. It’s not that we are going to abandon the Internet, there is lots still to say, or stop giving readers solid practical advice, it is just that we want always to include some material that baffles and amazes. The wide and wonderful title, Computers & Law, remains appropriate technically. But now so many applications in and on the edge of information technology scarcely allow the user to realise that there is computer processing going on somewhere and we need to cover these too.

My appeal is to those of you practising or experimenting with the truly leading edge technologies. Let us hear about these and, where appropriate, about the particular legal difficulties which are associated with them. We really do want to know about the obscure and the developmental.