THE BLOG
23/12/2013 07:36 GMT | Updated 19/02/2014 05:59 GMT

What Will Become of Britain's Digitally Isolated After Martha Lane Fox's Resignation?

David Cameron must find a new digital champion to replace the inimitable Martha Lane Fox, one of the dotcom boom's most famous successes as founder of lastminute.com and all-round good egg.

Baroness Fox resigned last month as the government's UK Digital Champion after more than three years in the post and, as stated in her resignation letter, will continue to work closely with the Government Digital Service (GDS) and through her role as Chair of Go ON UK in building digital skills.

If an 80:20 rule were to be applied on getting the digitally isolated online - Baroness Fox, with her sheer energy, drive and change management skills has been an integral force in getting 80% done with 20% time and resources. It can only be deduced in hindsight, but it is remarkable to note the connection between the sense of urgency prevalent in 'late-buyers' on lastminute.com and the sense of urgency Baroness Fox created for 'late adopters' of Digital Britain, including gov.uk.

In a little over three years, Baroness Fox has laid down the building blocks by aiding the creation of Government Digital Services, a fully-fledged and extremely effective cross-industry charity (Go ON) and has inspired many entrepreneurs and commercial institutions to notice the market opportunity in getting people online.

But there is plenty more work to be done in eradicating digital isolation from our country. Because when it comes to the remaining offline population, the hard to reach will be increasingly harder to reach. In terms of the incentives to get people online - every success shaves off the total economic benefit to be achieved - making the prize-pot of achievement smaller and possibly less alarming to inspire action.

As more and more services go online, from health to shopping, the full benefits of being a Digital Britain will simply not materialise if everyone is not online. The next driver for Digital Britain is an economic case for 100% online or even better, the costs of not doing having 100% online.

It also needs patience because to get to 100% online is not going to be simply about improving access or skills - it will also be about changing mindsets. Alleviating the fear and indifference towards digital amongst our senior population will be critical. Laying down standards that extend 'digital by default' to 'simple by default' so going online is more accessible from the outset should be on Go ON's agenda.

The individual savings of being online will need a lot more tangible proof if they are to convince people of the benefits. And finally, the support system needs to move beyond digital champions to the family members or friends who can encourage a loved one to get online.

Companies like mine are doing our bit to make the internet more relevant and personal for the digitally isolated, but getting to 100% online will need our PM to appoint someone with the same energy, passion, wit and business acumen that Baroness Fox brought about to Digital Britain. We need a new digital czar as the work is not yet done.