FOR one further look at Digital Britain, the strategic digital vision published last month, let us consider the appointment of Fast Lane Foxy as Britain’s Digital Inclusion Champion.
The report rightly highlighted concern that 17 million people in the UK are not connected to the Internet. Increasingly, being on the Net is a key means of economic and social inclusion. Children unconnected at home risk falling behind in their education compared with those who are, adults without broadband can no longer keep in touch as readily as those with it.
Those concerned fall roughly into two groups. Firstly, there are those who say they are too old to get connected and can get along fine without learning computers at their age. Secondly, there are those who cannot afford to get a computer and all that goes with it. Often, these are the very people who could benefit most by getting online.
So Martha Lane Fox, the Lastminute lady, doyenne of the dotcom boom, has been drafted in as our new Digital Tsar to advise on fixing this.
I hope she succeeds, it is important work. However, from my own involvement in Digital Inclusion initiatives locally, I know that there are no easy solutions. There is no money to subsidise computing for all those who are hard up, and if there were then those who have made sacrifices to get online themselves would reasonably complain. More affordable recycled computers can help, but there will not be enough to make a big dent in the problem.
It is a challenge that needs to be met. Let’s hope that Foxy can outrun the pack again.