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September 21, 2009



Caveat - Martha sits on our board, and advises on our education projects.

But still, although she has no doubt had a privileged background, since cashing out on lastminute she's spent most of her time working with charities around exclusion, poverty and crime, as evidenced by the projects supported by her Antigone charity, so she knows lots of the digital inclusion issues in detail:


She also has the kind of profile that will get ministers and other people to listen, which I guess makes her a good candidate...

andrew wilson

I still don't think so I'm afraid Matt, for at least 3 reasons.

Firstly because digital exclusion isn't a digital problem, it's an exclusion problem.

People are excluded from digital opportunities for the same reason they are excluded from other opportunities.

Because we live in a centralising, homogenizing plutocracy in which rule sets are made in the best interests of a few tens of thousands of wealthy and privileged people.

If we can't see that after the last 18 months then we are a country full of idiots. Which we probably are.

Challenge the plutocracy, challenge exclusion.

Martha Lane Fox is at the heart of, and has profited from, that plutocracy and it is very reasonable to believe that she will never ever suggest anything to meaningfully challenge it.

That is taking a political view, but the whole Digital Britain/service design innovation/social innovation camp/rebooting Britain “movement” needs a good hard political kick because it is going to be David Cameron's puppy otherwise (which may be exactly what the people involved want to be of course).

And it might not be fair to her personally, but she has to do a lot more than a bit of charity work on her gap year to prove otherwise.

Secondly I don't believe in the centralised tzar (Champion, whatever) model of solving anything.

There will be people up and down the country from Hackney to Inverness with years of hard won experience in trying to reduce digital and every other kind of exclusion (some of whom may not even have their own charitable foundation!) – so give them some money to experiment with, let them get on with it, measure what works and copy that.

And if we want structural solutions, let's have some negotiation about rule sets – why should Sunderland be governed by rule sets designed for Canary Wharf?

Let Sunderland define their own rule sets to tackle their own problems.

Appointing another consultant instead just seems a very tired old New Labour way of trying to change things – ineffective and at the same time starry eyed in the presence of rich and powerful people who got their wealth from their existing privilege.

Of course you might say that Martha brings the glamour to cut through the red tape and get the resources to the people who need them (taken straight from the press release without reading it).

But if the only possible solution is to appoint someone who is adept at using wealth and privilege for gaming the hidden mechanisms of analogue power, then that is just a measure of the size of the problem, because it was rich, powerful people shamelessly gaming the mechanisms of analogue power (old school connections, lobbying, political party funding, corporate hospitality, corporate sponsorship, board membership of private companies and public institutions and so on and so on and so on) that got us in this mess in the first place.

Some people are included in power, most people are excluded.

And the third, and by far the most important reason?

It's just naff.

It's like voting for Ester Ranzen to "clean up politics".

Digital exclusion. Martha Lane Fox. Come on, say it out loud with a straight face.

Whoever made the decision didn't have any fear that it could or would be held up to ridicule, which demonstrates how secure powerful people feel in their control of politics and media.

Martha Lane Fox may or may not be an admirable and pleasant person in her private choices, and she may or may not be the best solution likely to happen at present, but I don't accept that “best under the circumstances” argument at all – Utopians for Real Change!

And I'll certainly question her good faith in public action.

Because if she were in good faith she wouldn't have taken the job.

(TL;DR? In seven words: Digital exclusion? Martha Lane Fox!...)

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