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Martha Lane Fox

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Why I'll Keep Pushing for a Networked UK

Posted: 20/07/2011 00:00

People thought I was crazy to consider a role championing digital stuff within Government. Now they know I am - because I'm actually enjoying it.

I love this job for two reasons. First, because in terms of ambition, ideas and human capital Whitehall's technological capability has made such big strides in such a short space of time. Second, because of the staggering difference that technology makes in people's lives.

In Whitehall, the aim is now to lead the world in the digital delivery of public services. There's a compelling business case for doing so: by raising the contacts we as citizens make with public services to a third Government will save £2bn a year. We have a great team now in place to overhaul DirectGov: rationalizing Government's web estate to build a genuinely consumer-facing shop window to Government.

For individuals and communities, the moral and social argument for introducing more people to the benefits of the Internet is overwhelming. Digital is a vital life-skill: as basic as knowing how to read and write. 90% of new jobs require it. You're 25% more likely to get work when you have web skills and once in work, you'll earn 10% more.

I've lost count of the number of people I've met in areas of real deprivation or in very challenging circumstances who've told me how technology has served as a lifeline for them. From older people avidly Skyping their grandkids in other cities or shopping online to stay independent as their mobility wanes, or single parents who've set up small businesses that would have been non-starters without the web, to people with chronic conditions drawing strength from sharing their experiences online.

It's these individuals' powerful stories of how technology has helped them that inspires me to keep pushing for a truly connected UK where everyone has the skills and confidence to access the web.

We've made big progress. However, to harness the power technology holds to achieve social good, we need charities to place digital much higher up their list of strategic priorities. The sector's digital capability is shockingly low. It may be counter-intuitive to invest and innovate in a time of such fierce spending cuts - but better use of technology is vital for charities to address social problems with the kind of imagination and efficiency and at the scale that this funding environment requires.

 
 
 

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