I think part of my fascination with Martha Lane Fox stems from the fact that I recognise some similarities between her and myself. I too studied Ancient History at University and ended up working for digital and tech companies. I too had an accident that left me unable to walk for a year. I too love a bit of hot pink in my wardrobe (although these days as a mother to 2 and 4 year old boys, I have much less time, and money, to spend on my wardrobe and am generally happy enough if my clothes are free of mud stains when I put them on in the morning!) But that is where the similarities end; it won’t surprise you to know that I have never owned a multi million pound online company such as LastMinute.com and I don’t sit in the House of Lords. However, these differences aside, I really feel a connection to Martha Lane Fox, and I find it incredibly refreshing to have a fashionable, contemporary woman championing the digital industry.
So for these reasons, I want to support Martha in her campaign towards an internet revolution. Her ‘Dot Everyone’ vision (which she outlines in the Dimbleby lecture) is a pathway to a brave, inspiring new world. She wants us to embrace the power of the internet and become a world leader in digital. She wants us to become the ‘Most Digital Nation on the Planet’ and thereby benefit the UK’s culture, economy, people, health and happiness. How should we achieve this lofty goal? By embracing ‘Dot Everyone’. ‘Dot Everyone’ is Martha’s dream; it would be a national institution leading the digital charge. ‘Dot Everyone’ would be an independent organisation which would engage with people in a radical new way. It needs real powers and real impact and it needs the people, and the Government, on board. The internet is here to stay and, as Martha says, “it is the organising principle of our age.” In her vision, if we embrace the benefits of Digital cohesively as a nation, we could achieve “our generation’s moon-landing.” Inspiring talk or what?
So what does “Dot Everyone” hope to achieve? There are 3 main goals:
1. Improve understanding of the internet at all levels of society
Whilst 76% of us use the internet everyday, in the UK there are still 10 million adults who are currently not online. 50% of these are over 65, but more worryingly, 50% of these are of working age, but are in the lowest socio/economic group. “Dot Everyone” aims to open up the doors of the internet to the whole UK population so that everyone can enjoy the transformative power of getting connected. Martha quotes Aaron Swartz, the late American programmer and entrepreneur: “It is not OK not to understand the internet anymore.” But she also targets our leaders, both in business and in Government. She claims these leaders are letting us down because they don’t properly understand the internet. She wants these leaders to escape old assumptions and look at how they could use the digital world to do things differently. Let’s ignite our digital imaginations!
2. Encourage more woman into the tech industry
None of the biggest internet businesses we use today were founded by women. We need to change that. Historically women, such as Ada Lovelace and Dame Stephanie Shirley, have been involved at all levels in developing the computing industry. So why not now? Dot Everyone believes the UK need to inject these under-represented voices into the Digital world and thereby leapfrog ourselves into making the UK into the best place in the world to be a female technologist. I loved Martha’s power statement: “Let’s create an awesome cohort of female coders.” I see her Ancient History education coming to the fore there with the use of the word ‘cohort’ (!), but whilst I am not, and never will be a coder, goddamit, I defy women working in the digital industry to not want to be a part of Martha’s “awesome cohort”!!
3. Deal with the Ethical and Moral Issues
Obviously a complex area of the internet and one which requires careful navigation. In order to tackle this growing problem, Martha believes we need to be world leading in our thinking and establish frameworks which allow us to navigate the online world. How do we change it? We embrace the original promises of the internet: openness, universality, transparency and freedom. We use these principles to make a national asset. Without doubt, this is “Dot Everyone”’s biggest task. Martha believes that if we can embed our national values in the digital world, we can start to fill the moral and ethical gap in the online world. To me, this is the most woolly of Martha’s visions, but nonetheless I applaud her for confronting the issue and looking at the ‘bigger picture’ in terms of how to solve it.
So is it time for us to be brilliant at the internet? Are you or your business ready to embrace Digital technology and help it improve our lives? We need to do it together. Inevitably this starts from the top. Now that David Cameron is installed in Downing Street for another 5 years, we need to put pressure on him to ensure that Digital becomes one of the priorities for this government. In order to put the ‘Dot Everyone’ plan into place, Martha’s call to action starts simply. And you can play your part right now. She has started an online petition for the Prime Minister to encourage him to prioritise these issues during this Government. Are you inspired? Add your name to the list: Dot Everyone . Let’s work it out together.
“The Beginning is always Today” Quote by Mary Wollstonecraft
All stats/figures quoted from Martha Lane Fox’s lecture