Martha Lane Fox to clone 10m copies of self
Well, not really
Martha Lane Fox has launched a campaign to make sure everybody in Britain of working age has heard of Martha Lane Fox by 2015. It's an ambitious goal, especially since she doesn't actually have her quango any more - her Digital Services Unit was created in March but abolished last month.
This hasn't stopped her soaking up valuable civil servants' time, or launching an initiative with David Cameron today to promote greater awareness of Martha Lane Fox.
As many as 10 million people live a Fox-free existence, and among those targeted are the most vulnerable in society. Fox promises that "the disadvantaged, unemployed and retired", will be cajoled and berated to get online. As if they haven't got enough to worry about already.
In her "Manifesto for a Networked Nation", Fox proposes that local authorities - which are cutting front-line services - appoint "digital champions", although it isn't clear where the cash might come from. She also recommends that:
We should embed rewards for passing on basic web skills into existing community volunteering programmes, for example Girl Guide and Scout badges, Duke of Edinburgh awards and in new proposals for civic service.
[Her italics, not ours]
There are lots of such italics in her new 65-page PDF, where almost every page has a different font size, and a lot of the text is in peach, purple and pink. You can tell it's unofficial, because nobody would ever have approved such an eccentric document.
One thing absent from the Foxifesto, however, is any acknowledgement that the 10 million people who choose to stay offline might have perfectly reasonable justifications for doing so. Being patronised by Martha Lane Fox and her (imaginary) army of chivvying, nagging Girl Guides and Cub Scouts makes that less, not more likely. ®
I love how...
...page 58 has a quote about web accessibility and supporting people with visual impairments, and the text is in pale pink on a white background.
You can lead a horse to water
but you can't make it do the backstroke.
This seems to be what MLF wants to do. Although the report admits that a lot of the people who don't have internet connections are quite happy like that and don't feel the need to have it, she seems to think that they still should become connected. The tone of the document is one of I'm an internet professional. I think it's good-and-lovely-and-fun-and-happy-and-useful-and-safe-and-easy and so should you.
The one group that does merit more attention - although their invisibility in the pamphlet is just as great as it is in real life - is the disabled population. The document tells us that 48% of disabled people don't regularly use the internet .... and then says almost nothing else about them, except for a solitary word here or there in a couple of bullet points.
Although we've had the Disabilities Discrimination Act in force for many years it's had little effect on the people it was meant to help. The rise of flash has seen to that. (and the general cluelessness of the vast majority of website aurthors). Maybe if Martha spent a little more time digging beneath the surface of the fact that some people don't use the internet and examined WHY, she'd be in a better position to make a real difference to the one group that can't (or don't want to be) helped by the simple expedient of putting more PCs in libraries and Job Centres and letting people have access to them, there.
An accurate assessment...
I heard MLF in full twaddle-emitting mode on the Today Programme yesterday. The thing that caught my attention was her remark that "there are 40,000 computers in schools that sit idle at nights and weekends". So what? Is she proposing that those school computers be thrown open to the IT-challenged? If so, when - presumably at nights and weekends? Who will supervise these proceedings? How much will it cost to hire armed guards to prevent people from loading the damn things onto trucks and driving away with them? (Assuming they're not so obsolete no one would want them, which, judging by the school computers I have seen...)
The obvious analogy, I should think, is with having a car. That certainly confers many advantages, and is almost a necessity for many jobs. But the government doesn't undertake to give everyone a car - let alone pay for fuel, servicing, insurance, tax (!),...
If you want a car, you save up for one or buy it on the never-never; then you need to take driving lessons and pass your test; and you do (and pay for) all this on your own initiative.