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“Never let a good crisis go to waste” decried Winston Chuchill. A sentiment I was reminded of via Doteveryone Ceo Russell Davies in the turmoil of the last week. 

These are particularly poignant words in light of the vote to leave the European Union. I cant be certain but I imagine that a high percentage of the Leave voters would cite Churchill as a powerful force for good and a great leader. This same Churchill was one of the key proponents of a united Europe and  in 1948 made a famous speech saying “we hope to reach again a Europe United but purged of the slavery of ancient times – a Europe which men will be proud to say “I am European”.

I voted Remain. I did some bits and pieces for the campaign but on reflection they were not the right kinds of things.  I contributed to letters declaring various points of view, did some tv interviews and debated at some events. Clearly, the metropolitan elite like me banging on was at best irrelevant and at worst harmful.

I  am very disappointed for the UK and for the other countries in Europe who have to sort out the mess we have created. I am angry at the exaggerations told by the Leave campaign and I am angry at the casual way the government structured and set up such an enormously important decision. 

At seismic moments, I find the ever changing role of the Internet fascinating. I was drifting in and out of sleep the night of the vote but it never occurred to me to turn on my tv. I followed the results by listening to the radio online and looking at Twitter.  It was odd seeing an initial wave of reassurance by commentators, then some incredulity, then surprise, then depression. 

For breaking news and live updates, nothing beats Twitter (OK, I might be a bit biased as a new non executive to the company) but as events unfolded it was also notable that the long list of resigning Labour MPs chose to break their news on the platform.  Walking past newspapers in shops on Friday was like walking in a time warp as events were unfolding so fast that the printed static headlines looked somewhat absurd. Over the course of this week the online petition to hold a second referendum has gained over 3m signatures and events of protest have been organized via Facebook groups. As I write this I saw an email about a newly launched website savinglabour.com and the the number of visitors  to read Boris Johnson’s Telegraph column and visit his site the moment it went live on Sunday was huge. It feels as though the scale of the political shifts mean that the people are using the Internet to react and organize like never before.

As soon as the results were decisive, U.K. Tech sector representatives kicked in with some excellent and collaborative thinking about what steps can be taken to mitigate some of the potential fall out. 

As you would expect from a sector peppered with entrepreneurs, there is a level of optimism and belief that there is opportunity even in turbulence, that I find inspiring. One in five tech companies in this country is started by an immigrant. There are lots of suggestions about what the sector should be doing to keep talent motivated as well as being able to find the best people. It seems that access to skills as well as, unsurprisingly, access to the single market are key concerns for the start up community. It’s vital to help uk tech businesses continue to grow – it’s not rocket science – the Internet economy is the future and we must support it.

But, It’s not only the commercial tech world that I feel could help us in this new landscape. 

There’s now more reason than ever before to use the Internet as a force for social cohesion and community building. I believe that this needs as much focus as the commercial world.

Specifically, we must address the 12.6m adults with no digital skills. We must make sure everywhere has high quality and affordable Internet infrastructure and we must help the social tech community scale and grow.

Too often there’s no incentive to ‘start again’ with government and civic infrastructure, things are patched up, problems are postponed and everything is nudged into the next fiscal year. If we want effective, trustworthy digital services, we have to stop doing that. We need to rebuild them using the techniques and technologies of the internet age, not with the hubris of grand IT projects but with the humility of service design. 

We should think big but start small and prepare to scale. When (or if) we separate from Europe we must take the opportunity to redesign our civic infrastructure around our users – not just re-implement the hodgepodge we’ve got now.

To me it’s time to position definitively the UK as a robust modern digital  economy.

Arguably,  the leave voters choice was due in part to the impact of no industrial plan for rural and poor communities. There is a  huge opportunity  to complete the job that has been started by two successive governments. We need to move from start ups to scale ups and crucially embed a much deeper deep use, understanding and universality of the Internet.

Tech used well can unite -and  not only a community of metropolitan elite.

Let’s not waste this crisis. 

37 thoughts on “Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

  1. Thanks for your blog Martha. I like the Churchill quote and agree that we just need to make the best of this now.

    The people I know who don’t use the internet is a lifestyle choice rather for than for want of infrastructure. I’ve been an avid twitter follower (it brought me to this blog) but it didn’t help me predict the outcome or hear any moderate views afterwards, so maybe I need to diversify!

    I think the best outcome of this crisis would be if we build stronger connections globally – Brazil, India, China, Africa. Get more of a worldview and build stronger links with emerging economies (who must love twitter right?). EU has been our best trading partner but if you lose an important client hopefully will give us the imports to go out and find some more.

  2. Great to read the blog and start to focus on steps forward. I also think the gift of the digital world is here to focus us – to provide a voice to those who are going to make this country evolve and grow into a wiser nation based on love and compassion not ego and politics. Thanks for your words.
    Best
    Louise

  3. Martha, Another great and inspiring Blog, thankyou. Up here on the borders of Lancs, Cumbria and N. Yorkshire we’re beavering away with B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) to provide Ftth 1Gps symmetrical to every farm, home and business. Yesterday the electronics Cabinet was delivered to Ingleton’s Community Centre and with volunteer effort, digging is starting on the fibre laying. Is this the best and fastest internet service in the world? You bet it is! John Rogers.

  4. Great post.

    I’m frustrated though, as someone who tried to educate themselves as much as possible before my vote based on various media, old and new, I found myself overwhelmed by a plethora of misinformation and half truths propagated by various platforms controlled by the powers that be, for their own good.

    Ultimately, it was this that made me vote Leave! In a hope that the potential of possibly having more control over a small subset of a wider European population might allow us to lead from the front with advances in a democratic process more in touch with technology.

    I could be wrong but however progressive it’s suggested UK politics is,it still feels wildly out of touch with modern technology and unable to sustain itself without many more people like you Martha and Tim Berners Lee guiding it.

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