Digital inclusion

Martha Lane Fox is an impressive person. Not only was she one of the dot-com era?s early millionaires, she has gone on to launch Lucky Voice karaoke bars and is the founder of Antigone, a foundation that gives small grants to start up or early stage charities in healthcare, education and criminal justice.
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Not only that, but the new government has seen fit to ask her to continue her role as the UK’s Digital Champion, attempting to get online the ten million people in the UK who have never used the internet. She also has an impressive collection of nonexec board positions to keep her out of mischief. And if that wasn’t enough, she is still on crutches, recovering from a near fatal accident in 2004.


Lane Fox addressed last month’s Parliamentary Information Technology Commission (PITCOM) meeting, delighted that she had had her position confirmed under the new Government. PITCOM includes parliamentarians, some of the major vendors and government contractors, academics and representatives from trade bodies, and is an ideas exchange, aiming to inform the country’s decision makers about issues to do with IT in it broadest sense.

There are some deeply committed ‘technologists’ in parliament, and I have over many years taken the opportunity to inform them of the abilities and needs of our channel indeed of the very existence of the technology channel (“not all computers come from Dell or HP”).

Meanwhile, the somewhat loose catchall of ‘Digital Inclusion’ has developed into Race Online 2012, which aims to bring people and organisations together to improve the life chances of that disenfranchised ten million, particularly the four million who are also socially and economically excluded.

Lane Fox is passionate about digital inclusion, and following her PITCOM presentation the Q&A session came up with some interesting ideas. We all know that the internet can be of great value to the housebound and elderly, allowing them contact with distant friends and relatives, and letting them make purchases from the comfort of their own home; but if someone is old, set in their ways and somewhat technophobic, how can we break through to them?


One innovative thought put forward, only half-jokingly, is that we shouldn’t ‘allow’ people to retire until they can use a connected computer. Perhaps we shouldn’t let them leave school until they can do so either, nor draw benefit. Lane Fox decried adverts on the sides of buses, “offering broadband for just so much per month”. Such claims are virtually meaningless to many people; isn’t it about time we saw adverts saying: “Speak to all your friends and relatives and do your shopping and have it delivered for less than £10 a month.”

As I have said before, the aspiration behind Race Online 2012, is fantastic. But it is going to have to be accomplished with virtually no Government investment, despite the massive potential savings in delivering Government services. I think independent resellers can have a key role to play in this process. In fact, many TCA Members are already very active in their local communities.

The thrust behind Race Online 2012 is about getting individual and corporate commitment. And on that basis I urge you to research what it is all about and sign up. Find out more at


Who are the guardians of our digital life?

How often do we put our future or livelihood in the hands of a solicitor or lawyer? Because of their skills and professionalism they are able to charge us fees that may often make our eyes water. But at least we have the understanding that if they do indeed rip us off or give us unprofessional service, they can be hauled before their professional bodies and disciplined.

Radio free Europe

My mention of the EMC regulations a couple of months ago elicited a response claiming that interference from what is variously known as Power Line Technology/ Power Line/ Communications/ Power Line Telecommunications equipment (let?s call it PLT) was a widespread problem that was only going to get bigger, and was a major breach of the EMC regulations.


What's your offer?

Every interaction that a person has with a business builds up a picture of that company. Every little thing affects it: how the phone is answered, how bright and tidy the place is, and the quality of any information given out by the shop, such as opening times.


Top marks

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