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For the second instalment of our interview platform AYS Insider, we spoke to Baroness Lane Fox, entrepreneur, digital tech advocate, and philanthropist, about her Dimbleby Lecture and latest initiative DOT EVERYONE.
These are only two achievements in a long list; being a 25 year old woman who braved the offices of traditional venture capitalists to start lastminute.com and revolutionise the way we use the Internet, to starting her charitable foundation Antigone, being on the board for Marks & Spencer and founding the karaoke chain Lucky Voice.
Martha spoke passionately about educating people about the Internet, getting more women into the tech sector and tackling ethical and moral issues that surround the Internet, both good and bad. It was hard not to be infected by her drive and vision for a future Britain as the most digitally connected nation in the world. A connected nation that would benefit everyone; saving us money, expanding our minds, reaching forwards to new ideas and continuing Britain’s legacy of being ambitious and progressive.
We asked Martha a few questions following the debate.
Baroness Martha Lane Fox:
"I saw close up how technology completely changed the world in the late 90's as the web became mainstream. To me the job of creating a modern and digital UK is not even half done. While we have some incredible digital businesses - the tech sector is bigger than construction, education and health, there is only one UK site in the top 100 most visited sites in the world - the BBC at Number 74. The UK has one of the most vibrant digital marketing sectors in the world - why can't we have the same ambition across a wider digital landscape?"
Doteveryone is all about putting the Internet in the hands of the public, but how could brands help too?
I believe that the UK has the opportunity to become the most digitally powered up nation on the planet, but to do that we have to embed the Internet at the heart of all of our businesses, organisations and services. Brands are an essential part of this vision. They help show what's possible, how things can be redesigned and they can lead consumers into the future.
We are lucky to be in a creative industry that celebrates ambitious and successful women, how could we help to further opportunities for women within our own industry, but also in the other sectors?
I wish I had one answer for this very complex problem. I am sure everyone would agree that it is depressing that there are fewer women in the technology sector than in Parliament. I think the first step is to recognise the problem, measure it and ask all sectors that touch technology to come up with bold solutions. Products meant for everyone should be designed for everyone. They will be better, more successful products.
Where do you think there is the most potential for women to change the tech sector, in big boardrooms or start-ups?
Women are consumers. They make 80 % of the purchase decisions and are 50% of service and product users. It's not a question of the boardroom or the start-up, it has to be everywhere. We need a fundamental shift in how we think about equality.
Getting more women into tech is certainly necessary, and not a small ambition, but how could we also help to remove the barriers for people from lower socioeconomic groups to join the doteveryone movement?
This is what I have been working on for the last 6 years, it's a massive issue for the UK. We have created a digital divide - 10 million adults don't have digital skills and they come from the most disadvantaged communities. There are lots of projects addressing this problem, I set up a charity called Go On UK and we have 8 board members from companies including Lloyds, E-ON, Post Office, BBC, Home Retail Group, Big Lottery Fund, EE and Talk Talk. They all pull their resources to help people get skills, but we always need more partners. Any brand can help.
Your rallying cry of “Let’s have no poverty of ambition” really struck a chord with us, where do you think Britain is tripping up on this? Is it in the workplace or is it earlier in classrooms and homes?
We must demand more from the Prime Minister to make sure Britain is fit for purpose. He should be driving the fastest infrastructure in the world; the best skills, the most radical redesign of public services and empowering all of us to meet our digital potential. No one should be left behind. I also believe we need to encourage our legislators, corporate leaders and all of us to think about the Internet more critically and with more curiosity - Facebook and Twitter are not the Internet and we miss its power if they curate our experience.
Who do you envisage becoming the leaders and the flag bearers of doteveryone?
It will only work if we all embrace it. I think the UK has a rare opportunity to create the definitive public institution for the digital age. But it must be driven by all of us. We invented the BBC, the Open University the NHS. We can and must grab a global lead with both hands. Brands can and must help. We need their influence and power! Get involved.