I just watched Martha Lane-Fox’ Dimbleby Lecture – a bit late I know. I first downloaded it not really knowing whether I’ll watch beyond two or three minutes. However, I quickly found myself deeply enthused by this woman who brings such positive energy and radiance to a room. Her enthusiasm for digital and for her project “dot.everyone“ was palpable from the minute she started, and I needed to watch it all.
MLF is everything I look for in a role model, she is a strong beautiful woman in technology – someone with a passion and someone with the backbone to actually implement her ideas.
I was inspired by her story. Her passion for digital started when she was 25, about my age, with her first big venture: lastminute.com. And it certainly didn’t end there. She goes on to talk about her latest big idea “dot.everyone”, an innovative public institution she imagines will propel the UK to the forefront of the digital age and address the major problems we face in the digital industry and to some extent in society.
She outlines three major issues this institution should tackle:
– how do we improve the understanding of the Internet at all levels of society
– how do we get more women involved in technology
– how do we tackle the genuinely new ethical and moral issues that the internet has created
I commend her idea and I do think it has great merit, yet I see it as somewhat paradoxical and she actually points to it in the lecture.
MLF talks about how Tim Berners-Lee “crucially […] decided not to patent his invention [the world wide web]. He made it free for everyone. The world owes him a debt for that supreme act of generosity and long-sightedness.” For her, like for many others, the fact that the Internet was made a common good very early on was a tremendous blessing. Indeed she refers to the “the original promises of the internet: openness, transparency, freedom, universality”.
Yet, Lane-Fox is saying we should make them a national asset. Even more, she is dreaming about how her idea could “make us the most digitally successful country on the planet and give us real edge”.
I believe that her strategy of making the UK better than others at digital represents an out-dated way of thinking – a way of thinking that still roams the halls of Westminster . It is stuck in the box of the nation state – and is definitely not prepare to think outside it. It chants ‘We as a country want to be better, we want to be the best!’
When you talk about the internet, you cannot reason like that anymore. Borders are not the same as they were last time “we became the powerhouse of the world“. The internet isn’t about seeing one country become better than others, it’s about the world as a whole improving and advancing. This time we have the chance to build a worldwide project. Yet MLF is talking about dot.everyone.UK not dot.everyone.
I forgive her, she is speaking to an audience that may not be ready for my concept of ‘dot.everyone’.