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We need a new national institution to lead an ambitious charge – to make us the most digital nation on the planet.I don’t say this because I’m a fan of institutions. I say this because the values of the internet have always been a dialogue between private companies and public bodies. And right now the civic, public, non-commercial side of the equation needs a boost. It needs more weight.

We have an opportunity to make Britain brilliant at digital. We’ve been going too slow, being too incremental – in skills, in infrastructure, in public services. We need to be bolder.

A new institution could be the catalyst we need to shape the world we want to live in and Britain’s role in that world. Today, we’re letting big commercial technology platforms shape much of our digital lives, dominating the debate about everything from online privacy to how we build smart cities.

fact, I probably wouldn’t call it an institution at all. This is no normal public body.

It’s time to balance the world of dot com so I would create DOT EVERYONE.

I would prioritise three areas, that I think best demonstrate the opportunities we should be grabbing with both hands: education, women and ethics.

Firstly, DOT EVERYONE has to help educate all of us, from all walks of life, about the internet. The internet is the organising principle of our age, touching all our lives, every day. As the late activist Aaron Swartz put it, “It’s not OK not to understand the Internet anymore”.

We need to make sure that those in power understand how the internet can help us redefine public services, improve the lives of the most vulnerable, bolster our economy. Leaders and legislators cannot lay claim to grasping the power and potential of the internet just because they’re on Twitter.

Crucially, we must ensure that no one is left behind; that the 10 million adults who can’t enjoy the benefits of being online because they lack basic digital skills, no longer miss out.

Secondly, DOT EVERYONE must put women at the heart of the technology sector. Currently there are fewer women in the digital sector than there are in Parliament.

Something that is for everyone should be built by everyone. Do you think that social media platforms would have done more to stop abuse if they had more women in senior positions? I do. And how about the Apple Health Kit that went to market without anything to do with periods? Building an awesome cohort of female coders, designers, creators would help make us the most digitally successful country on the planet and give us a real edge.

Finally, we should aim for a much more ambitious global role in unpicking the complex moral and ethical issues that the internet presents. For example, what are the implications of an internet embedded in your home appliances? Do children need online rights? What is an acceptable use of drones?

Our rule of law is respected the world over; we should be world-leading in answering these questions.

DOT EVERYONE is new – it won’t and shouldn’t feel familiar. No grey suits, no dusty buildings. It will be an independent organisation. It will have a strong mandate from government, but also from the public – we will be setting its agenda, we will be informing it and taking part in it. It might produce written reports but it would also prototype services. It should show what is possible when you put the internet at the heart of design.

We should be making sure that the original promises of the internet – openness, transparency, freedom and universality – are a protected national asset, as integral to our soft power as Adele, JK Rowling, Shakespeare, or even Downton Abbey.

Britain invented the BBC, the NHS – let’s not have a poverty of ambition – we can and should be inventing the definitive public institution for our digital age.

If you like the idea, I have set up a petition at change.org so please sign it.  And please blog, tweet, respond – lets start the debate.

https://www.change.org/p/the-uk-prime-minister-create-dot-everyone-a-public-institution-for-the-digital-age

21 thoughts on “A little teaser of my Dimbleby lecture

  1. Hi Martha – we couldn’t agree more – in fact we’ve recently started https://represent.cc with precisely this ambition: to provide a platform for the civic to balance – and work productively with – government and business.

    And as you’re aware, it’s not just the internet which presents ethical questions – we are pushing the “meta-systems” (economy, nations, welfare state, etc) to operate at scales and globalised conditions they were never conceived for – and many are breaking.

    The internet presents an unprecedented opportunity to engage citizens on issues which concern them locally, nationally, and globally; and to provide a platform through which we can express our values, define and describe the world we want, and participate its governance.

    We fully support your call, and would love to be involved in the co-creation of this organisation.

    On behalf of the whole team at Represent,

    Ed Dowding
    ed@represent.cc

  2. I stumbled across the lecture tonight by chance and am so glad I did. It was engaging and thought provoking. Lots of opportunities to get involved and support the drive to really push ourselves forward in all aspects of digital life.

  3. Congratulations on the delivery of your message via the Dimbleby lecture this evening. As a researcher in digital heritage I believe very strongly about the power of the internet to empower and enrich us, both as individuals and as a society. I shamelessly ask you to visit my own wordpress site Grecianvoices.wordpress.com, where myself and my colleague, Prof Gabriella Giannachi have demonstrated some of our work in building a localised digital community. Again, congratulations, and should you need any assistance in developing Dot Everyone, then please do get in touch @willsbarrett

  4. Congratulations Martha, it was an inspired talk. What about ‘teach-ins’ on TV and radio, lectures too for the ‘dot everyone’. I am now
    a fan at 77 years…..

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  6. Inspirational .. Was sewing elastic in my 11 year olds sons trousers and put the needle down after 2 mins of the lecture. Like any parents have been steering my children as they’ve grown with the internet ..frustration with school IT classes that teach safety and PowerPoint .. Frustration with lack of moral responsibility as my daughter talked of beheadings .. Amazement at their minecraft masterpieces and video editing .. The list goes on and the debate has gone on and on in our household …
    Well done for looking for a brighter future for Britain and the internet .. Will pass it on .. After I’ve finished sewing my sons trousers!

  7. I saw the lecture, was well delivered, had some very good points to make. The one point I would take exception at was why put women at the ” top “, I think the best option was to push mixed development teams. Not make it sound like men are no part of the brave new everything dot world…..as if they cannot / should not be involved……

    • mark, i don’t think that martha was proposing to exclude men from the top or any level in digital organisations.

      she was illustrating the current male bias in key decision making and technical roles, and highlighting that there is no reason for this other than the vestige of gender discrimination.

      when gender neutral attitudes and normal representation prevail, full potential is unlocked. why limit any venture to draw from only 50% of the talent pool?

  8. Ability to inspire is rare and I am glad to have started my 88th year listening to Martha! If only all the politicians asking for our votes could speak so well with a message that all should try to understand. More convinced than ever that it is never too late to learn!

  9. I was inspired and excited by Martha’s lecture (takes an exceptional vision to inspire a 79er) I don’t think she was unnecessarily biased against men, after all, men have run the world for thousands of years and it’s a mess. Be honest, isn’t it?
    The testosterone needs dilution to make it work properly. It also needs the direction of an open mind. A closed mind, (like a closed parachute) is useless.

  10. Have just watched this inspirational lecture for the second time and feel it must be fate. I’m supporting an IT Colleague at BDC to deliver an “IT Industry Speaks – BDC Listens” meeting on June 5th to discuss the IT skills shortage. I’m convinced we have the talent and we just need to ensure we deliver exactly what industry requires.
    I’m currently working on trying to create an apprenticeship in Structured Cabling. This is a legacy from the work I delivered at London 2012, Structured Cabling is the 4th Utility.

    • Hi Martha,

      Yes!! i also watched your Lecturer and it just totally #inspired me more to, continue supporting to change the Digital Skill Shortage in the UK. I would be extremely delighted if you would be part of a panel, at the “IT Industry Speaks BDC Listens” Event , discussing, subjects such as the UK Shortage, Digital Solutions, Women in Technology. It would be a true #inspiration to me, if you supported me,

      Please see more information here :

      https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/it-industry-speaks-bdc-listens-tickets-12285890429?ref=ecount

      The Confirmed Panel attending So Far:

      Russ Shaw – Founder at Tech London Advocates
      Dr Leila Walker – Head of Partnerships & iDEA Programme Director. Nominet Trust
      Bethany Koby – CEO and Co-founder Technology will save us
      Anthony Impey – Managing Partner at Optimity Ltd
      Andrew Stevens MIET – CEO, CNet Training/Trustee, Edge Foundation

  11. Martha – An excellent and inspirational lecture and I agree fully with the recommendations you propose. However, I would like to comment on two aspects of what you spoke about. Firstly, I agree with your proposal for a Digital Institution, but I do not agree that it should be the role of government to create or lead that initiative. Every leading profession, including my own of engineering, has an institution dedicated to furtherance of the societal aims of that profession; however, most are funded and led, not by government, but by the members and leaders. The leaders and visionaries of the digital profession, and I include yourself in this category, and perhaps Dame Wendy Hall, another female visionary who I am sure you know, should look to themselves to form this body, not government.

    Secondly, you raised the point several times about the lack of women in leading roles in the digital profession, which is true for many occupations. We need to encourage women to play leading roles in all areas of society, including in what are sometimes perceived as male dominated sectors. However, achieving this is not done by reacting with the same prejudices against men that you experienced as a woman in your business career; your rhetoric and reference to outdated male stereotypes, and in particular, men with grey hair and grey suits, was as unacceptable and inappropriate, as was the reference to a female focussed institution. If the same things had been said in a prestige lecture by a male, about women, with reference age, dress style or hair colour; it would, rightly so, be regarded as being totally unacceptable and would have prompted much condemnation; standards should work both ways.

    So let’s be inclusive and encourage the best talents on your initiative regardless of their age, race, gender, hair colour or dress choice; such misguided comments detract from the important points you made in your lecture. By the way, yes, I do have grey hair, and possess a grey suit! However, I embrace digital technology and champion the furtherance of women in all aspects entrepreneurship, engineering and innovation.

  12. An exellent lecture thankyou !
    The big problem is that such a large proportion of the over 45’s are frightened of their computers.
    If you go for a new machine the programs take ages to find out how to use and where controls are, this puts so many older people off
    I know several that bought a new computer But still use their old XP because they can’t find the info they need.
    If you want to succeed there needs to be dedicated TV channels
    to how to use all the functions on all conputer systems like the OU for computing and this also covers how to get the most from your mobile / tablet
    With this support that can be recorded to watch at leisure
    you may stand a chance
    With my business I even find customer resistance to digital time switches that can save vast amounts of energy without going to an IT system
    But Martha thanks for shaking things up.
    end

    .

  13. I agree with Roger – sadly I am one of those people who struggle with technology but who can’t live without it and long to be less of a mess with it. I loved your lecture, have listened to it twice and thought it was passionately and clearly delivered. I’d like more step by step guides so that I could feel less frustrated about it all.

  14. I loved your Lecture, and am proposing to try and use it as a lesson with my Level 3 BTEC IT students on Wed 22 or 23 of April only just going to make it I believe. these learners are off to work or University thought it would provoke a good debate its exciting stuff thank you

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  16. I have just taken over as the Head of a Somerset based charity – via volunteer tutors we provide free computer training in the home for our clients who cannot (for whatever reason) attend public courses. Most of our clients are older people and I have seen first hand how Internet access gives them a new window on their world. It’s hugely rewarding. I want to expand our work to help more people – and find more tutors (and more funding!) as I am sure there are many more people out there who are currently without Internet access and are thus at a serious disadvantage. Admire your work and I am always on the lookout for good advice that will help us to help more people. Keep it up Martha. Barry (ITHelp@Home)

  17. Hi Martha. The idea of doteveryone is fantastic if you live in the centre of the UK. If you live any distance from populations hubs (for example North Cumbria) then broadband speeds are too slow and mobile connections too weak to stream data, to work using email & social media. (consistently 1Mb speed).This generates an almost 3rd world population of internet users in the UK; limits the opportunities to train people on IT; establish start up businesses or work effectively using IT in rural locations.
    How can it be a greater priority to construct a high speed train infrastructure, which benefits a limited number of people, when a capital programme of IT infrastructure could secure digital access by the whole population? Cabling to many locations could be cost effectively put in place when other services (water, gas, electricity) are installed/ when roads are fixed but it would require an obligation on service providers to build the IT element in.
    Thanks Claire

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