You’d have thought the opportunity to watch videos of dogs skateboarding/barking at hoovers/flying planes would be enough to lure everyone online, but apparently that’s not the case: Martha Lane Fox, the government’s digital champion, says there are 10m people in the UK who don’t use the internet. The Lastminute.com founder says that isn’t good enough, and has announced plans to get everyone of working age in the UK using the web ‘by the end of the current parliament’. But with the government’s coffers empty, getting hold of cash is going to be easier said than done...
At the centre of Networked Nation, the manifesto Lane Fox has put together, is the idea that by the end of 2010, there should be ‘digital champions’ stationed in every local authority, public library and Jobcentre Plus to help teach people the wonders of the web. She even wants people better versed in the ways of the digital era to volunteer their time, money, equipment and ideas to help people get connected.
But, even with volunteers to help out, this still may not be the best moment to start asking for cash: it’s going to be a challenge, to say the least, to squeeze any money at all out of a government that is currently busying itself slashing IT spend in everything from local councils to schools. It looks like it’s going to be up to the private sector to provide the lion’s share of funding – but with Lane Fox focusing the campaign on people of working age, the implication is that by helping out, you’re improving the skills of Britain’s workforce. Very crafty.
Lane Fox will present her manifesto at Downing Street later on today, and David Cameron seems quite taken by the idea: he’s already said the plans are ‘essential for a dynamic modern economy’. That said, it’s hard not to question the importance of a campaign like this when spending is so tight: no matter how good the intentions, goading technophobes into using the web probably won’t make it to the top of government priorities anytime soon.
Elsewhere, Facebook has given into pressure from campaign groups and installed a ‘panic button’ for users who feel they might be the focus of certain undesirables. It’s nice timing from the website: the Networked Nation campaign bears the tagline ‘we’re all better off when everyone’s online’ – but MT can think of instances in which that isn’t the case at all.
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Surf's up: Martha Lane Fox launches plan to get Britain online
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