Dot Everyone and Digital Inclusion

Last night Martha Lane-Fox gave a hugely inspirational talk for the 2015 Richard Dimbleby Lecture. You can read the transcript here (and watch it here for the next month in the UK).

In short, it’s a call to arms. As is usually the case when digital issues are publicised in front of a mainstream audience, it has inevitably provoked discussion both for and against some of the themes raised during the course of 40 minutes.

But I recommend that you watch and/or read it. I fully endorse a number of the points that she makes and if you do too, I suggest that you consider signing the petition to call on the incoming UK government to take the points raised seriously.

In short, there were three main themes: increasing general understanding and usage of the internet at all levels of society; increasing the involvement of women in technology; and addressing the burgeoning ethical and moral issues that such advances generate.

After quoting Aaron Schwartz (“It’s not ok not to understand the internet anymore”), she hit the nail on the head by pointing out the all-too-real problem that we have today. Many of those with responsibility for regulation are often woefully under-educated about the technologies that they seek to legislate. To me, this is no more clearly illustrated than within the continued debate around the value of encryption.

Whilst there may be challenges, the reality of living within an increasingly digital world is that we have the opportunity to develop new business processes within the public sector that kill off inefficient and ultimately dangerous methods that exist by default. As she points out, technology provides us with an opportunity to “save money from the cold world of paper and administration and invest more in the warm hands of doctors, nurses and teachers”.

As for the call for more women in tech? Nothing new there, perhaps. But it’s old news quite simply because it’s true. The skills gap that we are currently accelerating towards is being either wilfully or negligently ignored by those who have the power to institute widespread change from above. Seeing this  reflected within the Bitcoin community has prompted me to progress a few initiatives on this front which you’ll (hopefully) hear more about during this year but I do think we have to accept ownership for solving this problem lies with each of us as individuals.

Martha Lane Fox’s idol is Dame Stephanie Shirley, a recent visitor to Edinburgh. If you need further context, watch her talk from the Informatics Ventures event here (I’ll blog more fully about her story at some point soon).

I’ve gone on long enough. If you’ve read this, you’ve certainly got enough time to read the transcript. Perhaps even to watch the talk. And you should. You can argue with some of the finer points that she makes but Martha Lane Fox hits delivers an important talk here and one worth listening to.