I just gave the Dimbleby lecture.

This is what I said.

Please use, it, comment on it, get involved, write a blog, debate and sign up. 


“Thank you, Jonathan. And many thanks to the Dimbleby family for this incredible opportunity. I’ve drawn inspiration from the life of Richard. We may remember him as the sonorous voice of state occasions, but he was also a technological pioneer; in 1962 he introduced a programme which included the first broadcast live from the States by the telstar satellite.

This lecture is partly for him – I like to imagine him looking down on our newly connected world and questioning what we’re up to.

I’m going to start with a moment from my early life in technology.

It’s 1998. I am 25. I am sitting in a huge central London office, with long sash windows, and a  grey haired man in a three piece suit is at the far end, behind a big mahogany desk.  

“What happens if you get pregnant?”

I’d just finished the most important pitch of my life – presenting the vision for Lastminute.com with co-founder Brent Hoberman. We were trying to raise money to create something truly new powered by the internet. This was the first and only question from the first and only investor who had agreed to meet us.

“What happens if you get pregnant?”

What was so surprising to me was not only the inappropriate nature of the question, but also the total lack of interest that this grey haired man, sitting behind his antique desk, was showing in the face of the internet revolution.  Didn’t he realise this wasn’t just about booking holidays but about way more – shopping, information, politics, entertainment, health, education.

Couldn’t he see beyond his prejudices about a 25 year old woman to glimpse the inspiring, brave new world ahead?

This story sums up my working life. I have spent much of my career as a champion for how digital technology can improve our lives. I’ve often done this in environments that are traditional, conventional and established.

I can spend my mornings hearing about a jaw-dropping new development in wearable technology or 3D printing and my afternoons in the House of Lords –  disappointing my fellow peers as I am unable to explain to them why the parliamentary wifi isnt working.

And now I’m here, in this extraordinary building, this monument to what science can do, this testament to the dramatic improvements people have made to our lives through leaps of imagination and invention.

And I feel so lucky to have the next forty minutes to tell you about the world I inhabit and why I think the UK could be brilliant at the internet.

It is in within our reach for Britain to leapfrog every nation in the world and become the most digital, most connected, most skilled, most informed on the planet.

And I think that if we did that, it would not only be good for our economy, but it would be good for our culture, our people, our health and our happiness.

I’m not going to tell you it’s simple. It’s not. I get frustrated when discussions of the internet are reduced to “its going to solve all world problems’ or “its screwing everything up”. It’s always more complicated than that.

But, if you want me to give you a single big thought, it’s this:

We need a new national institution that would 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 that equation needs a boost.

It needs more weight.

We’re going too slow, being too incremental. 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.

It would be an independent organisation that is given its power by government but has a strong mandate from the public – we will be setting its agenda, we will be informing it and taking part in it.

It must help us address some of the biggest issues that we face but  it must engage with people in a radical new way. In fact I 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 call it DOT EVERYONE.

There are 3 areas I would prioritise. There are others but for me these are the most pressing. It’s these I want to concentrate on tonight because I think they best demonstrate the opportunities we should be grabbing with both hands .

Firstly, how do we improve our understanding of the internet at all levels of our society?

Secondly, how do we get more women involved in technology?

Thirdly, how do we tackle the genuinely new and thorny ethical and moral issues the internet has created?

Let’s look at each of these in detail. Firstly – understanding the internet.

The importance of this task was emphasised by a recent House of Lords report which concluded “we face a crisis of digital skills”.

I wholeheartedly agree, but that’s the language of policy makers.

The late, great activist Aaron Swartz put it more punchily. He said this:

It’s not ok not to understand the Internet anymore.”

It’s that simple, whoever you are. Especially if you run a large organisation. Or a country:

It’s not ok not to understand the Internet anymore.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re 80 or 8, if you’re online once a year or once a minute. Understanding where the internet came from and what it can do will help you make more sense of the world.

It might help if I tell you some history and a bit of my own story.

What we’ve come to call “the internet” was originally designed by the US military in the 1960s under the name ARPANET. It was a public sector project, funded by the government.

And it was the result of international cooperation. One of the key ideas behind it – packet switching – came from a British engineer called Donald Davies.

That’s the first thing to remember. The internet is a public project. A global, public project.

The particular brilliance was that you only need one connection anywhere in the world to access the whole network.

Through the 1970s the internet was the domain of academics and computer scientists. Commercial use of the network was forbidden. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the first private internet service providers sprang up.

At around the same time, in 1989, ONLY 26 years ago –  a British physics graduate called Tim Berners-Lee was employed as a software engineer at Cern. He started working on what was to become the World Wide Web – a layer that uses the internet but is not the same thing. He wrote a paper simply titled “Information Management: A Proposal”.

It was initially greeted with faint praise. His boss, Mike Sendall, wrote “vague but exciting” on the cover.

Tim wasn’t downcast and went on to write the first ever web browser, WorldWideWeb. Websites were born. Crucially Tim decided not to patent or protect his invention – he made it free to anyone to use.

The world owes him a debt for that supreme act of generosity and long-sightedness. That’s why he got to sit in the middle of the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony and light it up with the words “This Is For Everyone”. He genuinely made something for everyone.

It’s also worth noting that BOTH of Tim’s parents were computer programmers. Indeed his mother had to battle with the male coders to get access to her own computer.

Tim’s invention led to a time of great optimism and creativity.

I remember it well. Many of us thought we were seeing the disappearance of top-down media, the dissolution of the old structures of corporate power.

We were probably a little naive.

The internet and web kept growing and the next big leap came in the form of smartphones, the iPhone and ‘apps’.

And now it’s very easy to be on the internet without really knowing it. You might be using an app on your smartphone – let’s say the Met office weather app, one of my favourites.

The app is using internet infrastructure to deliver you information about the  rain or sometimes the shine but you don’t really feel like you’re ‘on the internet’, not in the same way you do when you’re browsing from one website to another.

My own adventure with the internet started in 1994 when I got a job fresh out of university in a start up consulting company that specialised in media and telecoms. All our projects were grappling with the changes the Internet was bringing about. Quite an unexpected career choice for an ancient history graduate don’t you think?

It Wasn’t until 1998 that I took the leap into my own business. The UK was still in the first flush of New Labour, the Good Friday peace agreement was about to be signed, Titanic dominated cinema screens all round the country and Bill Clinton was still insisting he did not have “relations” with Monica Lewinsky. “Believe” by Cher was the best-selling single of the year. Dont worry, I’m not going to sing it.

It was in these heady days that Brent Hoberman, my friend, one time boss and brilliant technology mastermind, asked me to come and start lastminute.com with him. Back then, we were on  a mission to convince people that the World Wide Web was not going to blow up. As a secondary task, we were selling the idea that lastminute.com could be successful. This started with our own families.

After weeks of working on our business plan, we were finally ready to share it with our nearest and dearest. Brent’s family declared that the only people who would invest in the idea were the ones who had not read the plan. My own told me there were six split infinitives in the document and handed it straight back.

We were not deterred by them or that first meeting i told you about and eventually we did manage to secure our initial seed funding of £600,00.

It is extraordinary to think that the landscape we were working in was one with no Google, no Facebook, no Instagram and certainly no Snapchat. The biggest issues we faced were the complexities of creating a live database of products to sell and then overcoming the hideous amounts of time that the pages of the website took to load.

We got lucky and our idea was popular. Customers battled through our slightly challenging, newly invented technology to grab £99 flights to New York, unaware of the enormous charm offensive we had embarked on with the travel industry to convince them to work with us.

The cleverness of Brent’s idea was that it could not exist in the physical world.  It represented the best of what the web was doing – helping an old-world industry sell more stuff and helping our customers have more fun, cheaply and with less hassle. We were providing a real-time clearing house for the many hotel rooms, airline seats and theatre tickets that go unsold every day. People could go to new places at incredibly low prices with just one or two clicks.

We saw up close how technology was turning the travel industry upside down. How it flipped the balance of power from the big corporate to us, the customer, and how small suppliers could compete with huge conglomerates.

I remember writing our tagline late one night; “We want to help people be more romantic and spontaneous – to live their dreams”. It’s easy to be cynical, but it felt as though the world was changing.

The web created last minute.com and we were it’s biggest evangelists.

And, you know what? Many of those early wild predictions have come true.

The recent space mission undertaken by NASA has managed to travel further than ever before, because the internet allows them to 3D-print broken pieces of the spaceship and mend problems.

Doctors in London have remotely operated on and saved the life of a tiny baby in Ecuador using sophisticated, networked robotic arms.

Millions of people who love playing digital games have taken part in a project to analyse genetic data and help researchers beat cancer sooner.

Less significantly for the world, on the way here, to calm my nerves, I watched my favourite dance sequence from the 1950s MGM musical Bandwagon on my smartphone.  for the last few days I have measured the amount of my sleep (not good) and of my walking steps (very good) and done all of this using apps.

This is the fastest technological revolution in history. In the UK, radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users, television took 13 years and the web took just 4. It’s perhaps no wonder that we sometimes struggle to work out what it all means.

Almost everything you touch uses the internet in one way or another – banking systems, governments, shops and even some cars.

76% of Britons use the internet every day. Our nation of shopkeepers is now home to the most enthusiastic online shoppers on the planet. In 2014, e-commerce accounted for about 15% of total UK retail sales.

A report from Tech City in February this year found that there are now 1.4 million people in the UK employed in digital businesses and venture capital. The sector is 20 times what it was just five years ago.

That makes it bigger than health or education or construction.

I’ll admit to being daunted by the million or so people watching this but young YouTubers like Zoella  get more viewers than that every day. It’s easy to be dismissive of Zoella’s chatty make up tutorials, but her videos raising awareness of mental health have been watched over 4 million times.

Or look what’s happened with social media. Remember the wonderful and courageous Stephen Sutton who died of cancer last year and while doing so raised £5 million?

Or brave Caroline Criado-Perez who ignored the normal social media venom and used a twitter campaign to get Jane Austen on a banknote in a sea of proud and prejudiced men. Jane Austen couldn’t make it tonight, but from 2017 you’ll be seeing much more of her.

More recently, you’ll have heard about Katie Cutler, who used the internet to raise £300,000 for her neighbour Alan Barnes after he was horrifically mugged.

And it’s not over. It’s continuing to change things, its not stopping – it’s speeding up.

If we’re going to make the most of it we need to take the chance to shape the digital world as it shapes us.

That’s what DOT EVERYONE will help us do.

At all levels of society, we need to get educated and informed about the internet, so we can all be involved and we can all reap the benefits.

We have to start with our leaders – they should be symbols of this ambition. And right now they’re letting us down because they don’t understand the internet.

Let’s begin with government because, contrary to what you might believe, I’ve seen that real change is possible there.

The Government Digital Service, created in the Cabinet Office in 2010 is a recognised world-leader in creating digital public services.

In just the last three years this team and the people they work with in departments have helped save over a billion pounds. they’ve done it by building digital services that make life easier for everyone.

They have redesigned important but ordinary things like the way you apply for a Lasting Power of Attorney or claim Carer’s Allowance.

They are saving money and making interactions with government dramatically better.

Building on work started by the last government there are also good initiatives around open data, coding in schools and digital start ups – we should applaud this progress.

We just need to go much, much faster and we need to make sure all of us are included.

We need more politicians and senior civil servants who realise that ‘getting’ digital means more than operating a twitter account or taking an iPad to meetings.

What digital is about, what the internet allows, is a radical redesign of services. Cheaper, better, faster. This frees up money, resources and attention to put into the really important work, the work on the frontline.

We are about to go to the polls in an election where we are being asked to choose between seemingly competing visions. Crudely put, one of less spend and one of even less spend. But this is not as simple a decision as we are being told.

We’re still wasting colossal fortunes on bad processes and bad technologies. In a digital world, it is perfectly possible to have good public services, keep investing in frontline staff and spend a lot less money.  Saving money from the cold world of paper and administration and investing more in the warm hands of doctors, nurses and teachers.

There is a huge opportunity here to do public services differently. What we need is politicians and leaders who can escape the old assumptions.

Why, then, are our politicians are not talking to us about this?

Because they don’t understand it well enough. Their lack of knowledge breeds fear, especially of three dreaded words in a headline: Government. IT. Failure.

And who can blame them? We can all name the IT disasters; from health, to welfare and local government.

But it is time we move on from these old fashioned ways of talking about government technology. Big, clunky IT failures are no longer the only option.

The digital world I see is low cost and rapidly develops products. projects are less risky because they are always developed in close connection with the end user.

A world where the internet is a tool for transforming the relationship between the state and the citizen, not something driven by the need for economic efficiency alone.

There will, of course, be setbacks, there will still be bad headlines – you don’t change decades of entrenched technology behaviour overnight. But we need to demand more of our ministers.

but It’s easy to indulge in our favourite national sport and blame politicians – but corporate leaders? You’re letting us down too.

This country is rightly proud of its creativity, its inventiveness and entrepreneurialism.

But among the top 100 visited websites in the world, there’s only one from the UK.

last time i looked it was at number 74.

After Pornhub, at 73.

And what is it? The BBC.  A public institution.

It’s not that we lack digital talent. 8 of the 20 most popular YouTubers in the world are British. It’s just that the platforms they’re doing it on are American.

the zero cost margin businesses that the internet enabled have become monopolies at breakneck speed and these businesses are mostly from the west coast of california.

we suffer from a shortage of digital imagination in the boardrooms. There are only 4 digital executives on FTSE 100 boards.  

But I’m willing to wager at least 80% of board discussion and decisions have a digital element.

this lack of imagination definitely contributes to our relatively small research and development spend which is just 1.8% of GDP versus 4.5% in the US. This in turn hampers start-up growth as there is less money available for innovation.

We start as many digital businesses as anywhere in the world but they need to be able to scale and corporate partnerships help do just that.

And now to you, journalists and editors – you didn’t think you were going to escape did you?

Please can you raise your game?

Politicians and business leaders are getting away with all this because you’re not asking the tricky questions.

No more about the price of milk – what about the price of broadband? I’ve hardly mentioned infrastructure but its vital – average speeds in the uk are too slow  – the internet report of 2014 ranked us 13th globally behind the Czech republic, the US, Japan and the Netherlands.

David – please can ask about why, despite endless promises we still don’t have superfast broadband to every one of us – a project that would immeasurably improve all of our lives. it has been touted and talked about but not remotely delivered.

And Jonathan, how about wondering why we aren’t addressing our mammoth social care challenges with more creative uses of technology?

Generally, I’m not sure how to feel about entrenched monopolies, but if both the Dimbleby’s start asking the right questions I think we can overlook this particular one…

This crisis of skills is not limited to the corridors of Whitehall or the boardrooms of the City. It’s also the case in some of our most disadvantaged communities.

There are currently 10 million adults in the UK who cannot get the basic benefits of being online – communicating, searching, transacting and staying safe. and guess what? They are heavily skewed to  the lowest socioeconomic groups.

50% are over the age of 65, but 50% are of working age, in a country where 90% of new jobs require digital skills and many vacancies are advertised only online.

Only 30% of businesses in the vital small and medium enterprise sector are buying or selling online.  Let’s just think about this for a moment.  Imagine you are running a small beauty salon or hairdresser. How difficult would  it be to do make sure you are known in your local area without understanding how to appear in search results or on social media? And think how much money could you save by ordering supplies and products online?

No wonder these businesses are missing out on growth. our Estimates show that helping every small business understand digital would contribute £18 billion to the economy.

As founder and chair of Go ON UK, the digital skills alliance, I have met hundreds of people who have shared stories with me about the transformative power of getting connected.

I’ve often returned in my mind to Mary in Newcastle, who is a disabled full-time carer for her heavily disabled husband. She was sinking fast into a hideous depression until a local volunteer taught her how to use the internet. she told me it saved her life. Yes, saved her life.

She felt her world expanded and that she could experience things she’d never otherwise have been able to do – she was “going on a holiday” when playing around on Google Earth and getting priceless support from new friends she met in online groups.

For Mary, getting access was the difference between coping and not being able to carry on. For all of us, her going online meant that she was relying less on health services, prescription drugs and doctors.

Whether you’re a newbie like Mary, or you’re a bit more of a Martha, you might need some help navigating the risks online too – malware, fraud, phishing, scams.

Let alone how to keep tabs on your personal data.

I’m not going to embarrass this audience by asking those of you with a password of 12345 to raise your hands, but I can tell you that statistically it’ll be about 25% of you.

And judging by the conversations amongst my friends it’s even more tricky when helping your kids – from sexting on snapchat to supervising screen time in the sitting room – the answers are not always clear. Trolling, bullying, shaming – it’s not going away.

it is essential that we are equipped for the darker technology developments as well as the bright.

However you look at it, education is the first thing our new institution, DOT EVERYONE needs to do. Education. Teach us all about the internet. Get us all up to speed. And make sure no one is left behind.

The second thing I think it should do is get more women involved in technology.

The big Internet companies we use every day and the cultures they spawn do not reflect the diversity of their users. They under-represent every group of the population that’s not male, white and able-bodied.

I’m enormously concerned that none of the biggest internet businesses we all rely on were founded by or are run by a woman.

Yes, there are some impressive senior women in tech, women like Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, Marissa Mayer running Yahoo! but you can count them on one hand and they’re mostly based in the U.S.

If you take a look at the tech sector as a whole, 14% are women. That’s a noticeably lower percentage than the 24% I find in the House of Lords. So much for the old fashioned world of Parliament versus the shiny modernity of the internet

Look at the investors in the technology sector – fewer than 10% are women.  Even worse: when you begin to look at specific, highly paid technical roles – the software engineers, architects and system operators – the percentage of women collapses to low single digits..

This is especially disappointing because women have been so important in the development and creation of internet and computing technologies.

There were women involved in all the pivotal moments of the history of computing. British women to boot. Ada Lovelace is widely credited as the first computer scientist, then there were the female codebreakers at Bletchley Park and look at the women who worked on the UK’s first computer – the colossus, built by the post office research station.

In fact, in the 50s and 60s, when the computing industry first started growing, it was full of women. Their admin-heavy jobs were the ones being automated, so they were the first to be trained on the new machines and were the people who did the first kinds of programming.

Let’s not forget a personal idol of mine – Dame Stephanie Shirley. She started an all female software engineering company in the 60s. She deliberately recruited women who other companies considered unemployable: housewives, mothers.  

It wasn’t easy – Shirley had to start by signing sales letters with her nickname ‘Stevie’ rather than ‘Stephanie’. but she got projects and they weren’t exactly lightweight  – only programming the Polaris submarine and Concorde black box.

I don’t know exactly how it happened but  the absence of women is having a profound impact on the services we use everyday.

I reckon it is not misleading to suggest that about 98% of the code that the internet and web technologies rely on was and continues to be programmed by men.

The digital sector should be leading the way in our striving, as a society, to move beyond prejudice based on gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, class or disability. It should not be languishing in a comfortably monocultural world.

Something that is “for everyone”, needs to reflect that. And that means being built by everyone.

Do you think Apple would have released its much anticipated ‘Health’ kit product last year without the ability to track periods if there’d been a woman high-up in the organisation? I don’t.

Is this why the big tech companies haven’t addressed issues that are predominantly faced by women on social media? Trolling, harassment, death threats? If there were more women at senior levels in these companies, perhaps problems would have been solved sooner.

It was heartening to see Dick Costello, CEO of Twitter put his hands up earlier this year and say that he recognised as much and then go on to hire three very senior women engineers.

I somehow find it unsurprising that globally it is Jack Ma, the charismatic founder of the wildly successful Chinese e commerce site Alibaba, who seems to understand the issue – 47% of his company’s employees are women and they hold 33% of the senior roles.

I could go on but I really don’t like moaning – there is opportunity for us here. What better way could there be to give the UK a huge leap in technology, than to inject those voices that are currently underrepresented?

The best predictor of an effective team is the presence of women. The kind of collaborative, team-based work that creates great software and great digital services has been proven to be vastly improved by the presence of women. So let’s show what can be done – starting in our schools, continuing all the way to the boardrooms.

Here’s a straightforward, achievable goal –  let’s make the UK the best place to be a female technologist in the world. Now.

The Uk will need 1m people to fill the jobs created in the technology sector by 2020. So Let’s create an awesome new cohort of female coders, creators, designers – women to take on any and every digital role.

Why not launch a national challenge to find the best ideas to tackle this problem?

Why not offer every unemployed woman free education and training?

Surely there must be a couple of new Ada Lovelaces lurking in this land?

There are exciting projects happening in the UK such as techmums, Stemettes and codebar but there need to be more of them, with bigger impact, so we foster the maximum breadth and depth of digital talent.

Remember the next wave of women can come from all sorts of unlikely places –  look at me – An ancient historian!

DOT EVERYONE our new organisation, must figure out how to put women at the heart of the technology sector. That alone could make us the most digitally successful country on the planet and give us a real edge.

Finally, there is one other area that we need to think about. It’s perhaps the most abstract and complex, but getting it right is going to be vital if we’re going to make the most of the internet.

DOT EVERYONE must help us navigate the multiple ethical and moral issues that the internet is presenting and will continue to present.

It’s not right for us or fair on them that it’s the big commercial technology platforms that are currently the dominant voices in these debates.  Google and Facebook are writing the answers because our institutions and legislators can’t cope and don’t have enough expertise.

We should be ambitious about this. We could be world leading in our thinking.

In this 800th year anniversary of Magna Carta, the document widely upheld as one of the first examples of the rule of law, why don’t we establish frameworks to help navigate the online world?

Frameworks that would become as respected and global as that rule of law, as widely adopted as the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy.

Tim Berners Lee started thinking about this with his recent Web We Want campaign.

Heres a specific example – We wouldn’t make policy decisions about health care matters without consulting doctors and medical ethicists. According to the same logic, we shouldn’t make privacy and data policy without consulting technologists and encryption experts.

The Snowden revelations and subsequent tribunal this year found that up to 2013 GCHQ had been undermining encryption and bulk collecting our data. Whatever you think about the effectiveness of executive oversight, everyone agrees that the legislation governing our data is woefully inadequate.

Right now, many of the people responsible for renewing that legislation don’t have all the technical knowledge required to do the best job possible. Surely this has to change.

There is no shortage of other issues to be explored.

Do children need different rights online?

What are the implications of wearable technology? Of an Internet embedded in devices in your home?

How do we make sure that ‘smart cities’ are projects for the public good not just private profit?

How should we prepare for the so called “second machine age” and the increasing robotisation of work?

How do we protect against increasing cybercrime?

I believe we should make sure that the original promises of the internet – openness, transparency, freedom and universality – are a national asset, as integral to our soft power as the queen, singing superstar Adele, jk Rowling, Shakespeare, or dare I say it on this channel, Downton Abbey.

That, for me, would be DOT EVERYONE’s third big task – help us embed our national values in the digital world.

It will make sure the UK fills the moral and ethical gap that exists at the heart of discussions about the Internet.  

It will focus on education, on addressing the absence of women.

And it will do this at a national level.

It must be bold. Ambitious. Globally respected.

As Goethe said in one of my favourite quotes “boldness has genius, power and magic in it”.

Easy to say but how do we fund it and give it credibility?

It would need a dose of public money, although it doesn’t need to be new money. There could be a reorganization of existing funds that go to many diverse organisations. or how about we require those large tech companies to pay a chunk of the huge profits they make here but on which they pay so little tax?

Most importantly it needs to engage with us all in a way that hasn’t been done before. It will crowdsource the priorities people want to see it work on – maybe even get part of its funding on Kickstarter.

It would have some hard levers – a clear mandate from government that would give it the ability to take certain actions.

Those might be ensuring no company can win a government contract without all their workforce having digital skills, or providing a compulsory digital immersion course for all parliamentarians and civil servants.

It would also have some soft levers – it might write reports but it’ll also produce prototypes because the best way to help people understand the benefits of digital is to show not tell.

For example, in The Netherlands  The Buurtzorg community nursing organisation invested in 7,000 frontline nurses with only 30 back office people. they flipped round their structure – rather than fewer nurses and more admin they have more nurses and less admin.

Patients rate the service highly. The nurses have 60% less absenteeism and a 33% lower turnover than in comparable organisations.

Academics suggest that doing something similar in the UK would save about £6 billion every year. Just in community nursing. SIX BILLION.  Even a sceptic has to take that number seriously – even a tenth of that number.

DOT EVERYONE SHOULD CREATE a UK  version and test it out.

It’ll be a team with many different skills, as diverse as I’ve talked about, bursting with women and demonstrating to the world what the future of technology looks like.

It will be a place where both the private and public sector would want to send employees for a year because of the invaluable experience they will get.

It should aim to do 50 significant projects in the next ten years and then we should be brutal in assessing if we need it. It doesn’t need to last forever, it probably needs to make itself redundant.

Dot everyone is new – it shouldn’t feel familiar. there’ll be no dusty buildings, no grey men, no bureaucracy, no questions about maternity leave.

I can’t be more prescriptive because I think it’s essential  we work it out together and because despite how it might appear I’m not applying for a job!

the idea of an institution isn’t entirely new. The Warwick Commission has thought about this, as has the legendary Tony Ageh at the BBC and Tom Steinberg, the founder of mysociety. There is great merit in all they say even if i might argue for different priorities.

It would also be wrong and arrogant not to recognise that there are many small organisations who are working pieces of this puzzle and doing some great projects and it would be essential to involve them in the creation of anything new.

However, I believe we will all benefit from a more cohesive vision centered around a single entity.

We created  some of the greatest institutions of the twentieth century – the BBC, the open university and the NHS. We must be able to do the same for the 21st century.

It’s not beyond our collective ability to nail this.

Just think about, it could be so exciting. I don’t want to get carried away, but it could be our generation’s moon-landing, our Great Exhibition, our Festival of Britain.

So finally let me reiterate why I think DOT EVERYONE is necessary. And why now.

It’d be easy just catalogue all the missed opportunities, all the dangers, all the things that don’t work. But as a clever person once said, Martin Luther King “didn’t motivate people by saying ‘I have a nightmare’.

So I too have a dream. It’s a dream where our Prime Minister has an unprecedented level of ambition for the country – to make it the most connected and creative in the world.

This PM would see that by embracing the Internet more fully and making sure all of us are included, we would benefit as individuals and as a nation.

They would recognise that the internet is here to stay and that it’s the organising principle of our age.  They would want to create this innovative, people powered new organisation and they would make sure it had real powers so it could have real impact.

Britain grabbed the industrial revolution by the throat – we became the powerhouse of the world – and we can do that again.  

We have a rare opportunity to have a new and significant role in the world. To lead in the civic public digital world – to help give it weight.

And the great news is that this time we don’t need “dark satanic mills” or workhouses or choking cities to fuel our success. We need vision and drive.

I want to challenge us all – leaders, legislators and users to be far more ambitious for ourselves and for the country in how we approach the Internet.

We need to move fast and we need to make sure that every single one of us is educated and informed.

No more ‘what happens if you get pregnant’.  

Britain should be a place where any 25 year old woman pitching for investment in a new digital business, social enterprise or public service will know that the investor, CEO or Minister  ‘gets the internet’

Why can’t we be the most digitally powered up people on the planet?

There are massive gains for us as a society if we are.

I can ignite the flame this evening, provoke the debate but we all need to help make this a reality. I hope you are convinced, excited and most of all, you want to take part.  

Imagine – DOT EVERYONE –  a new kind of organisation – digital first, diverse  – a strong mandate from govt but independent. Fighting for the civic, public projects that need some weight to balance  the commercial internet.

I have set up an online petition at change.org demanding the next Prime Minister starts to build dot everyone. please sign it. there is much to do so lets get going.

think of the bbc, the nhs. Lets have no poverty of ambition –  we can and should be inventing the definitive public institution for our digital age.

I end with my heroine mary wollstonecraft “the beginning is always today”.

You can sign up at everyone.org.uk

You can watch here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05p9tv

43 thoughts on “Dot Everyone – making Britain brilliant at the Internet 

  1. Martha, a great lecture and very inspirational> Having spent most of life in the entrepreneurial world particualry on major projects, i am afraid i is the cynicism of the institutions and lack of ambition which present the largest stumbling block along with short termism to big idea.. Lack of confidence and the ability to succeed at all levels is sadly lacking in the UK.

    in 1989 i went to east Germany after the wall came down as i could not get export support for international projects in the Uk> Everything i wanted was made available.Easy to see how German industry move forward. When Korea said it would become the largest ship building nation in ten years, they went and did it> For IT we need a backbone high speed infra structure which is coming., in Holland the base speed seems to be 40 mb.

    Instilling a “can do” attitude rather than a race to the bottom will be the key. Whether inside or outside the EU a chancge in mindset is critical to getting your message acted on. I wish you every success in developing your theme in to reality and if I can bring anything to assit you please let me know



  2. What a fantastic and inspirational Lecture, you are a STAR! however our Village in Essex has virtually no Broadband speed, because we have been told we don’t qualify for fast Broadband, as Essex is an Urban County, not a Rural one! How bonkers is that! So how do obtain it?
    We have Business ‘s etc. etc. with virtually no Broadband speed at all.
    We don’t know who to contact.

    Could you help or give us guidance on this please.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Kind regards,

  3. Pingback: Why we need a DOT EVERYONE (2) – NightHawk

  4. Martha you were incredible, and I felt totally inspired after watching it! Loved the female slant on such a male dominated world. My partner Annabel Croft and I have had such an uphill struggle to gain any business recognition for our innovative product, even although we have sold to customers in 14 countries, and there is clearly a huge demand. The Apple Health Kit App is the perfect example of breathtaking lack of awareness from the biggest names who claim to be so in touch with their consumers.

  5. the lack of broadband infra structure is one key to success particulary in the country> We have a similar position to Chris above: we have dial up and slow BB at one end of the village and nothing at the other

  6. Sue Bishop says:-
    Inspired by your lecture last night. I have worked in Information Technology most of my working Life and have had to challenge my male colleagues many times on many levels. However I have never wanted special considerations for job opportunities.I believe that if you give advantages to one sector of the work force you disadvantage another. I think women are there own worst enemies and what they need is confidence training and help to aspire to senior roles. I think people like your self are hugely inspirational and women just need to see more of people like your self, what you do and how you get there. I would love to work for an organisation that helps women to blossom in the world of great adventure – if you know of one let me know.

  7. Thank you for starting this debate Martha. I too believe that the internet represents an incredible opportunity that is little understood by many people. To start engaging in this debate, I’ve written my thoughts on my blog.

    My biggest concern is that there are many vested interests that will want to close-down the debate and the opportunities because radical change will threaten the established order. If that happens, then our countries future will be much poorer as a result.

  8. Martha, my wife and I throughly enjoyed your lecture. But why the big thing about not enough women. Are women applying for these post that are qualified, but being overlooked because they are female ? If this is the case, it’s totally unacceptable. Otherwise all roles should go to the best person for the job, regardless and should apply every workplace.

  9. Pingback: Doteverything – whats that about? | Mark Jacot

  10. Martha it was really inspirational. I had a boss wasy back whose favourite put down was ‘Don’t give the 25 reasons why not, give me the one reason why we can’. Leaving aside the politics and the in-fighting that’s the spirit we need to get ahead.
    David Boulton

  11. My name is John Doyle – I work at the European Commission and assume therefore that you have already deleted this message and I can afford myself near total liberty with what remains!

    Though I am Irish, I had the great misfortune to meet with the wonderful people in Rural Lancashire some 5 Months ago who, tired of waiting to be “allowed” into the 21st Century, dug their own trenches, laid their own ducts and blew their own Fibre. Their passion and commitment to the same ideas you championed in the Dimbleby Lecture profoundly marked me. In a rural part of the 7th poorest region in Northern Europe the B4RN project under the impulsion of Chris Conder and Barry Forde have delivered Fibre to the Home internet access at gigabits speed (in both directions!) to over 1000 rural folk across 12 villages – for the sum of £30 a month.

    I see no reason why in the lifetime of the next UK government and this Commission all rural citizens could not be connected at similar speeds IN BOTH DIRECTIONS. What a project that would be!

  12. Martha, you got it spot on, well done! At primary school I designed many things and made them work only to be asked “what’s it for, does it work?” I followed with an engineering career in broadcasting and made work many more designs treated initially to the same lack of understanding or just plain pessimism. Now retired, where do I sign up for this latest challenge?

  13. Scandalous how slow UK broadband is V mainland Europe. Especially bad for freelancers: You tell em Martha!

    You inspired to me to write a tech trade press blog last night – http://tinyurl.com/q2hjrrx – but as I tweeted I would have also liked to have seen more on Snowden, net neutrality & not leaving poor and old behind – no time I guess?

    Still, a great speech & to use the vernacular: Gr8 2 c 90s dot com tech enthusiasm. Well done! Neil, London

  14. Thank you Martha for your totally inspirational lecture, I sat nodding the whole way through. I agree with your vision and what you are proposing, that’s why I left the BBC Where I was a children’s TV producer to start my own company training charities to use digital media http://www.mediastories.co.uk. I am Passionate about digital – just finishing an MA now in Digital media. If you need anyone to work with you on your vision and with the enthusiasm and energy to help you make it a reality – I’d love to talk.

  15. Hi Martha

    Fantastic and extremely inspirational, we need more women leading the charge and making things happen in tech!!

    I run a women’s networking event, Women in Wireless London, would you please come and be a keynote speaker at an event later in the year?

    Pleased to hear

  16. Great lecture, I hope everyone watches and (more importantly) thinks about it. One little thing, the URL at the bottom of the blog post is incorrect, shouldn’t it be doteveryone.org.uk?

  17. Pingback: Did you catch Martha Lane Fox on TV? | Connect8

  18. I watched last night and felt truly inspired. Not for me but for my 13yr old daughter who has a dream to be an animator, a digital animator. She is fortunate to go to a great, lea, all girls school, who seem to give their girls the attitude of ‘this girl can’. I only hope that all girls can have this attitude, the one you exuded, from their teachers and lecturers, to show that no industry is out of bounds. I also have an 8yr old boy, so do also think that there should be no ‘quotas’, and that the best qualified, best work ethic individual should get the job whatever their gender. I shall follow the dot everyone idea keenly.

  19. To Martha Lane Fox. Hello Martha. Last night, and by chance, I watched you give the Dimbleby lecture on BBC 1, encouraging all to do more to embrace the potential of the internet. It was great to see you on TV, and I listened to your lecture with interest. However, I do not agree with your views. I am quite negative about using the internet. The media does scare us with bad news stories about the internet. Which is one reason why I don’t go on social media because I’m scared I might say something that millions will criticise me for. Lots of criminals wanting to steal your data on the internet, or bully you on social media. Also, the police or PC World are not helping enough to combat physical theft of laptop computers. No one told me that the initial Windows password may not be enough on its own to protect your data, if someone actually steals your laptop. No one told me that it is possible to add an additional password on your hard drive (thank you to John Lewis, more helpful that PC World). People should be encouraged to lock their computers away! Also, digital information is so fragile! If you accidentally knock or drop your laptop computer, or a portable hard drive, you could corrupt some files. For some reason, USB memory sticks are more durable. Supasnap shops are displaying posters saying print your digital photos or lose them in the aging systems. I love my digital camera, but I am aware that I need to look after my digital photos on the computer, by making copies, or risk losing them. Sometimes, computer networks or computer terminals break down, so you can’t access stuff you need to see e.g. at your bank, or in your office. Booking systems fail occasionally. Internet Dating websites do not work because no one responds to your messages. Why do some computer keyboards have keys switched so you get @ instead of ” ? What happens when there is a power cut, like the one reported in Turkey today? No electricity will make it impossible to access or charge your computer or smart phone if the battery dies. OK, now to be positive. Yes I can see the benefits of using the internet to look up information, news, photos, and to book tickets. Yes, the internet has improved telecommunications. But I don’t think that the internet and digital technology should become all or nothing. Such tools should be used alongside existing resources: pens, paper, books, people, as well as non-digital machines. I hope that Barclays Bank will not totally automate its customer service at branches where the trend is to have less human cashiers. I hope that there will always be a Plan B, when computers or the internet fail. In the meantime, I will continue to use paper newspapers, paper books, paper postcards. I will continue to record TV programmes on DVD disks, rather than always watch on the internet catch-up TV. I will stick with my basic mobile phone rather than the touch sensitive smart phones (where the glass can be damaged). I will watch films at the cinema, not on the internet. I will walk around the shops in London’s Oxford Street, not do internet shopping. Real life is better than virtual life. Do I really want to spend hours and hours on the internet playing Elite Dangerous, when there may be better things to do away from the computer? Computer games are great but can be addictive. Yes I am old fashioned, but although I appreciate the internet to some extent, I don’t want to be dominated by it. I end this long message with a thought. Your wish to encourage people to use the internet more, is almost like 30 or 40 years ago, when crime ridden cities like New York or Glasgow (or am I thinking of Taggart??) made efforts to become tourist destinations – with success I might add. Good luck, Martha. With best wishes, Patrick Lee. 31 March 2015.

  20. One of the best lectures I have seen. The points are valid, real, were presented in a most engaging way and must not be ignored. And those comments from a white, Middle Ages male, but one who has a sister, wife and teenage daughter, whom I would like to see get the same opportunities that I have had in technology and has enabled me to have a good standard of living and feel like I have made a possitive contribution. There is so much more we can do, Martha reminded us that we can lead and do, but we need to do more. If there is a way to get involved I would like to hear more.

  21. Of course brilliant Martha!
    Please look at my dear brother’s inspiration: http://www.itsfriday.com
    His name is Christopher Alan Simpson.
    He put all his worth into this and then he died.
    His legacy lives on in my children. So much fun and giving. He was the most selfless person anyone could meet. Not just interested in those he knew and loved but those he had met for the first time.
    Once again brilliant, so impressive, thought provoking, boundary pushing.
    Please look at his creation.
    His brother,
    Kind regards
    Paul Simpson (paultomsimpson@gmail.com)

  22. Your talk was inspirational. I am neither young nor female but would greatly appreciate ‘speaking’ to you about an App i have developed to Revolutionise the Understanding of Finance.

  23. It was certainly an inspiration lecture BUT what do you know about “how” digital is built reflecting the real world of delivering a government service. Sure using “digital” you have been a big success but then do you understand the software needs to support the business operations linking all people to the relevant process?

    Well the long over due “need” to remove coding the dream the quest as Bill Gates described in 2007, the commoditisation of business software removal of coding a 6GL…..it has been 20years R&D and we cracked at least a decade ahead of our time …. YET as a UK innovator is ignored….. too many self interests; internal and external…!.

    Are you up for a challenge to try and understand or ignore at great cost to UK as you did a few years ago in our twitter exchange? Lessons learned and some ideas how to accelerate exploitation of UK innovation. Up to you…..or are you still at the ignore stage in Mahatma Gandhi’s very profound view on the “new” “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you then they fight you, then you win” Every true innovation that challenges status quo faces this and more where big companies dominate…”We” need to recognise and make easier otherwise UK will be left behind as BRICS rise in power on global stage and collaborate on innovation.

  24. Pingback: How can we really get more women into tech?

  25. Pingback: The race is on: dot everyone  | The Lady Shed

  26. Martha, Unless I missed it nobody on the big election debate mentioned your initiative for increasing national income and your appeal to David Dimbleby fell on deaf ears in last night Question Time. How disappointing but utterly predictable! Only Nicola Sturgeon seemed to get the idea that balancing the books is not just about cuts and borrowing but about increased earnings and she hardly elaborated. Back in 2012 I developed a simple spreadsheet with input from the ONS database that showed the deficit being cleared by 2024 and the national debt being cleared by 2050 assuming an annual (GDP) growth rate of 3%. The projections are still on track with National Debt now at £1.5 trillion and more worryingly 3% year on year growth is unheard of over a sustained period. Politicians won’t spell it out like it is. They desperately need a kick up the backside and start listening and acting upon the views and ideas of people like yourself. I’ll vote for whoever picks up on your Dimbleby Lecture !!!

  27. Pingback: Dot Everyone – making Britain brilliant at the Internet  – Journal of the International Academy for Professional Development

  28. Dear Martha. I enjoyed your lecture and hugely respect you for all that you have achieved, and sadly for what you also suffered. 28 operations. The mind boggles. But are things really as bad as you say in internet use? I remember asking Ian Lang, secretary of state for Scotland in the 1980 and 1990s, how it worked having the Scottish Office in both Edinburgh and London. He said there was no problem: the documents follow us electronically.
    Look at how easy it now is to update your driving licence online, or even pay your taxes. I think your lecture was out of date.

    • Thanks for this comment – I was part of team setting up govt digital service that works on this stuff – believe me it’s not out of date – look at UC, health and recently rural payments – we haven’t even got going..,

      • GDS never has been “up to date” as they failed to do research on capabilities. ALL initiatives to look at innovation ;Skunk Works, Innovation Launch Pad,Solutions Exchange and ICT Futures all failed as did the Minister’s. promise to only adopt open source if delivered better VFM. But their good PR / marketing hides these grim and costly facts.

  29. I like the past.
    The present is a mess.
    I worry about the future.

    Lets do IT and make IT Beautiful :+)

  30. Hi Martha,

    In common with all others posting here I thoroughly enjoyed your lecture – inspirational vision and engaging anecdotes.

    I have signed up to the website and am interested to see how the challenge of engaging politicians develops.
    I do agree that creating a network with speeds that befit a 21st Century society is an important milestone in the drive to digital excellence but it is really only half the journey as you say.

    It is vital that people are provided with the support, service and advice that empowers them to make the most from technology.

    Businesses like Tech Love & Care – http://www.techloveandcare.com – which have recently launched and are dedicated to helping people get the most from their own digital tools, are going to be a key part of the process of upskilling and equiping the country.
    This is a business that has been conceived and is run by a woman with a fantastic team of like minded professionals.

    Wishing you all the energy you need to keep overcome the institutional inertia and ‘poverty of ambition’ (great phrase!)



  31. Hi Martha, I’m an about-to-be-25 year old woman who has just started to learn to code with http://www.codefirstgirls.org.uk/. Your lecture inspired me to share my first project which I built with two other women on the course.

    The UK is in the midst of it’s first election where Twitter is taking centre stage. This is exciting but the amount of information is overwhelming. Our tool helps people to understand which parties are discussing the issues that matter to them.

    Like Brent’s idea, the tool represents the best of what the internet can offer by presenting information in an insightful way which otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

    Here it is: http://www.electy.co.uk.

    Many thanks,


  32. Thank you Martha for the lecture ( Keith is correct )

    .The request is right but .I believe you are talking to the wrong people ..It needs a bottom up approach …the creativity needs to come via YOU founding a platform for every one ..

    . It will never come quick enough from those taught academic intelligence ;rather than creative intelligence ( this is over 50 years edu. brain train experience talking )

    We need a women’s help do what you want Have you the v ision to understand this ?..

    The answer is in the realm of Open Collaboration .

    ..Can we send you the plan ?

    Brain project Regards amor Ceo

  33. Martha, I was so enthralled by your lecture. It was so relevant to now and you have a highly pragmatic approach. I work with learners and employers at Waltham Forest College and we also strive to encourage usage of digital media. We have a Digital Media Day planned for Thursday 27th May 2015. Would you please consider popping in and talking to our audience for just 5/10 minutes? We would be very grateful!
    My very best wishes.
    Joy McCann

  34. Pingback: CommsWatch » Two weeks on from the idea of DOT EVERYONE

  35. I don’t really understand the best digital nation as an outcome or a goal. Changes in digital technology may well provide us with tools that help us achieve other outcomes and we should try to be proficient but if you are not careful you a) lose sight of what we need to tackle e.g. energy, inequality etc and b) to a man with a hammer everything is a nail. All to often I see digital touted as a solution without a clear understanding of the problem and why it is the right tool

  36. Brilliant Talk. Heard it on radio and then called it up on BBC IPlayer. You said everyone from 8 to 80 should get involved. I am female and 76 and agree with everything you say. Why can’t our politicians give us this kind of vision- inspire the nation? Please set up this Institute and give us something to unite behind regardless of party politics. In the past I’ve seen great British inventions being taken over and developed in other countries- Please don’t let it happen again with the digital revolution. I want to see this Institute set up before I am an octogenarian so please get a move on. Good luck!

  37. “..we were trying to raise money to create something truly new powered by the internet”

    Dear Lady Lane Fox,

    One of us led a team of computer geeks (including, briefly, a young long haired Bill Gates as a coder )that revolutionised newspaper printing forever with the creation of electronic printing.

    One of us worked with Saatchi and Saatchi for many years and
    Helped devise many successful campaigns.

    One of us saw a universal problem in our daily lives of commerce and leisure.

    The three of us have created a universal open sourced solution which is ” truly new, powered by the internet”

    But okay!! Hands up!!

    We are already “pregnant” and want to give birth to our creation “that will inspire the new world ahead”.

    We hope you won’t repeat history but be a locum mid wife.

    We are in very advanced stages so should all be over in an hour!
    But will change the World forever!

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