The WIF, conceived in September 1999 as a venture to help "governments and business face Internet reality", ran into trouble when a planned three day launch conference had to be cancelled at the very last moment due to lack of interest. The event, due to take place in London last November, had lined up 100 speakers including the Government's e-commerce minister Patricia Hewitt and culture secretary Chris Smith.
The launch coincided with a slump in investor enthusiasm in online commerce. Only 63 delegates pre-booked for the WIF conference, which cost them upward of £1,125 each.
Robert Blaney, the event's CEO and executive at London firm, Integrated Consultancy Projects, said at the time, "We expected 400 delegates, and we had less delegates than speakers." Instead of the expected £550,000 in delegates fees, the WIF banked just £8,757.
A month later Motorola pulled out of £500,000 sponsorship deal. A liquidator's report concluded that this represented a "major setback" for the WIF. Wyatt resigned from it's board of last April but retained half the shares in the operation.
Auditors are now looking into allegations that creditors were falsely assured that their bills would be paid. HSBC Holdings plc is owed £250,000, and Integrated Consultancy Projects themselves are owed £104,000.
The failure of WIF will be seen as a blow to the Government's efforts to present the UK as a leader in the field of Internet development. Wyatt, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey in Kent, is co-chair of the all-party parliamentary internet group, which has over 100 MPs and lords as members and has strongly advocated the creation of a minister for the Internet inside the Cabinet.
This was first published in March 2001