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UK.gov unplugs Lane Fox digiquango

'I've been asked to do a more roving role'

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A new technology quango due to be headed by karaoke investor Martha Lane Fox has been shut down by the new government less than three months after it was unveiled.

Gordon Brown trumpeted the Digital Public Service Unit in March as part of a final spasm of webtastic announcements. It was to be located within the Cabinet Office, in the heart of government alongside the intelligence machinery and the Prime Minister's policy teams.

Alas, the new lot have decided that along with the £30m "Institute of Web Science", the money might be better spent elsewhere. Or perhaps the Cabinet Office can't spare the desks.

Whatever, the Digital Public Services Unit is no more and Lane Fox is relegated to a "roving role". She says this is "great news".

A Cabinet Office spokesman told The Reg today: "The Cabinet Office is still very actively leading the work within Government to drive forward transparency, digital engagement and better and more efficient Government online services, supporting Martha Lane Fox in her role as the UK digital champion.

"The title of the digital public services unit was never fully adopted but its vital work, which began in March, is continuing to drive forward the digital agenda."

The unit was meant to act as Whitehall's web consultant, badgering other departments and agencies to deliver more services via the net more quickly. Its first task was due to be setting up Brown's "Mygov", yet another attempt at a centralised online hub for public services.

In an interview with Civil Service Live, Lane Fox explained David Cameron's great news that the unit is being aborted.

"The great news is that the PM wants me to continue to engage everybody in the country with using the internet," she said.

Prior to the announcement of the Digital Public Services Unit, Lane Fox had already been appointed as something called a "Digital Champion". A Magdalen College Oxford history graduate, she'll continue encouraging people on "horrible council estates" (©M Lane Fox) to use the internet with a budget of £2m. They can read all about it on the web.

She warned proles earlier this year: "I don't think you can be a proper citizen of our society in the future if you are not engaged online."

Despite the scrapping of her unit, Lane Fox plans to supplement her Championing schedule with meetings across Whitehall, though it's not exactly clear why.

"What we hope to do is to come in and find some impetus, some deadlines, perhaps some outside thinking and some challenge to the way that things happen in government," she said, adding: "If you bring that together with what's happening in the commercial sector you can create something quite powerful." ®

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