Feeds

Martha Lane-Fox: No broadband, no citizenship

Aloof, useless, and in need of coercion

High performance access to file storage

"I don't think you can be a proper citizen in our society in the future if you're not online," says self-confessed web-zealot Martha Lane Fox. She was appearing on a surprisingly good BBC Radio 4 investigation into internet refuseniks.

But why stop there, Martha? Why not remove the vote from anyone who's gone more than four hours without making a Tweet? Followed by detainment for anyone who neglects to update their Facebook profile for 24 hours. ("I'm being interned!") After all, keeping an online presence up-to-date may be unpaid work, but it takes less time than sorting out the recycling - another utterly pointless, ritualistic activity - and coercion will surely get the proles racing to the keyboards.

Seriously though, there are 17m internet refuseniks in the UK - counted as people in households without a connection - and this was an investigation into why they're not Tweeting. Or even downloading porn.

The UK's holdouts are even less inclined to go online than they were five years ago, we learned. But why?

Programs like this are fascinating because they typically reflect the policy orthodoxy embodied by Gordon "YouTube" Brown's statement that the internet as important as electricity. The orthodoxy states that people are stupid, the internet is great, and so therefore people who don't use the internet are especially pitiful. It's not acknowledged that people are sensible, well-adjusted and discerning - and may actually be making a rational choice. And that laying pipes or erecting masts isn't enough - the networks need to deliver better stuff to be compelling.

This went closer to the question than most, but tiptoed around the subject.

A computing professor said the technology was blokey "designed for young male computer scientists" and cited the "Start" button in Microsoft Windows needed to close down Windows.

But the good Professor didn't ask "why?" We know that texting was even harder on the earliest phones - particularly Motorolas. Yet texting became popular without any need for "Media Literacy" courses or new taxes to pay for them. Cost was also mentioned. But pay-TV has proved that if the value is perceived to be there, people will cut the budget elsewhere.

Shockingly some people preferred the personal touch, of handwritten letters to family, rather than an email! She confessed that she read a lot. Another black mark!

Universal imposition found anger at services that snubbed digital refuseniks - stopping pension collection at post offices, for example. Health services are next, of course.

Alas getting so close to asking "what might you actually want from a network?" it veered back to Martha Lane-Fox, the Lastminute.com founder and now quango ornament, Brown's and Twitter PR advisor. So what could work, Martha?

Coercion was "one dimension", she said, but she hoped there might be a "a catalysing event that's so compelling" that 100 per cent of Britons would rush online. What might this be - a human sacrifice? An alien autopsy? No, she suggested it could be the 2012 Olympics. Seriously.

The alternative is that the "cost base" of Government "interacting offline" with "its customers" is unaffordable, a depressing prospect, MLF said.

So Martha hasn't got a clue; But in the 17m must be a lot of voters who know better. UK readers can catch up with the BBC show, titled Can't Connect, Won't Connect for the next seven days here. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.