I can’t help thinking that in the musty, fuddy-duddy atmosphere of the House of Lords she must shine as a beacon of energy and light in an otherwise moribund and bellicose culture.
Her first main point in the lecture is that we need a national institution to coordinate Britain’s development of the opportunities available from more creative use of the internet.
Creating an institution to develop the internet seems like an oxymoron to me. ‘Institution’ and ‘internet’ seem totally incompatible.
I wonder whether a small core leading group leading a community of digital leaders throughout the country would not be a better model – similar to the way that WordPress has developed. There is a core team of developers who are assisted by a community from around the world.
I could see that a small core team could lead and guide the agenda for the community and would be much more agile than an ‘institution’ that conjures up a vision of institutionalised, time-serving civil servants who simply wouldn’t have the creativity and vision to develop the countries response to the myriad of opportunities and threats that have opened up as a result of the internet.
I do, however, agree that leadership is required to guide the national agenda and that this agenda could then be studied and developed by sub-groups of the internet community. Someone who has an overall grasp of the internet and the energy to lead multiple projects in sub-groups is required to electrify the debate in this country.
Where the ‘institution’ idea might contribute would be from a compliance perspective particularly when setting the moral and ethical code for our online activities. I just don’t think an institution is the right model for exploiting commercial opportunities.
I personally believe that we have an incredible opportunity to radically improve the education system simply by delivering online tutorials. Digital technology gives us the opportunity to get THE very best leaders and educators in every subject and field to create tutorials that our children and adults can all access on our desk-top.
This would mean that EVERY child (or adult) no matter what their background could learn from the very best in their field and at their own pace i.e. they can slow-down and re-watch tutorials until they understand what is being taught.
Such a change in education would radically reduce the costs involved in education, improve standards massively and transform our education system to make it the very best in the world and at the same time produce an educational platform that could be sold throughout the developed world.
In reality online tutorials can be delivered anywhere, at any time – no need for a classroom, why not a park bench? With the congested traffic on our roads we are getting to a point where driving our children into a school location with limited classroom sizes and restricted premises sizes, is getting increasingly problematical and costly. Online tutorials could be accessed at any time 24/7 so why restrict school hours or attendance times?
A more creative way of teaching our children is needed. However, the vested interests of our educational establishment will no doubt block the way to progress!
As Martha Lane Fox pointed out, I am sure that every other public service would benefit from a much more creative and connected use of internet technology. The technology could be developed by getting the customer involved in giving feedback and suggestions on their user experience.
Martha went on to discuss the lack of women in digital jobs. I find this difficult to comprehend because this is surely an area were there is no bar to women getting involved if they wish to. There are no physical or mental barriers other than prejudice. I think that the more diverse and the more people that contribute to developing our internet technology the better.
I wonder whether men’s love of gadgets and technology is part of the reason why women do not get involved. I can only speak from experience with my wife, sister and daughter. All are to some degree technophobic and impatient with technology. They do not seem to have the same problem-solving mentality that I do.
That sounds sexist but we have to acknowledge that we are all different. I have no interest in clothes but my wife does. Our differences are what makes the world go round and we should all play to our strengths. I think that more women should get involved in technology but only if they are passionate and interested in it because without that it is a hopeless ambition.
I also agree that we should debate the moral and ethical issues involved. The internet is like the wild frontier at the moment – it is being used for good and evil purposes and we need to set the agenda for the moral code online. Whilst I would hate to see the internet controlled by any government, it does need regulating with a clear set of rules for engaging with people online.
Personally, I think that there are many media activities that require investigation. For example, is it right that the ‘loan-shark’ companies who charge 1,000’s% are able to advertise on television? Personally, I don’t think so.
I also feel that the alcohol and tobacco industry need to bear the full weight of the health problems that they cause and their right to advertise severely restricted.
We need to take a common-sense approach to the internet – what sort of society do we want to develop as a result of the opportunities that have arisen with the internet?
One thing I am certain of is that the establishment and old government institutions ALL need reforming and the costs of the public sector dramatically reducing in favour of a more dynamic, entrepreneurial culture driven by the internet.
There are a lot of ‘sharks’ in technology who are willing to exploit the ignorance of others by over-charging for their products and services. These providers also need to be exposed and prosecuted for their mendacity. The best way to deal with them is to but up government projects for tender to drive down costs.
These projects should be carefully planned and payments only released subject to achievement of milestones in the project to avoid the crazy situation where huge sums of money are paid out for technology that is not fit for purpose. Government mismanagement of technology projects is a major reason for our lack of progress with important national technology projects like the computerisation of the NHS.
I whole-heartedly agree with Martha that the opportunities afforded by the internet are huge. We need a visionary leader (like Steve Jobs) who can guide our nation to exploit those opportunities
The Martha Lane Fox Richard Dimbleby Lecture has at least opened up the debate and now needs a strong push from our online community to get behind this initiative – I for one would like to get involved because I have positioned myself at the forefront of technology and the internet.