Martha Lane Fox: Go On UK Will Help 16m People Gain Basic Online Skills

Martha Lane Fox go On

Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…

UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox has told TechWeekEurope she is confident her new initiative, Go On UK, will improve the basic online skills of the estimated 16 million people in the UK that do not possess them.

Lane Fox is chair of the charity, which counts Age UK, BBC, Big Lottery Fund, EE, E.ON, Lloyds Banking Group, the Post Office and TalkTalk among its founding members.

“We think this is the first time a big group of charitable and private sector partners have come together to make tangible commitments,” she said. “It wasn’t easy to pull together eight CEOs, from those major organisations, but it wasn’t impossible. It wasn’t a hard sell.”

Martha Lane Fox hopes for Go On UK

“What I’m hoping is that we can dramatically reduce that 16 million,” she continued. “We are not a delivery organisation, we haven’t got that capacity, but we do have this extraordinary network of partnerships.”

Lane Fox said the focus of Go On UK was to establish a consensus on what to do about digital literacy skills and keep publicising the issue and placing pressure on the main political parties.

The founding partners have established a new Digital Skills Charter, which aims to establish, for the first time, the basic online skills required to move the UK towards “digital literacy”. These have been defined as communications, “find things” (i.e. research skills) and personal information sharing, and include tasks such as using a search engine, email, online applications and accessing information on the Internet.

Go On UK’s first objective will be to address digital skills in the workplace, where an estimated 4.5 million people lack basic online skills, and the founding partners will do this at their own companies.

A new report by Booz & Company, created in conjunction with Go On UK, estimated this digital skills deficiency is causing the UK to miss out on £63 billion. The report claimed just 33 percent of UK SMEs have a digital presence and that just 14 percent sell their products and services online.

UK Digital Champion

 “I would like every FTSE 100 chairman to sign up for our digital skills charter,” declared Lane Fox. “All businesses benefit by doing more stuff better digitally.” She said Go On UK’s partners had not only recognised the benefits of implementing the charter in their own companies, but the wider social benefits as well.

She said that although the government “has moved a huge distance in the last five years”, citing the portal as an example, she believes it must be a combined effort with the government to make sure that more people have these skills and that the UK had a real shot having some of the most skilled IT people in the world.

Lane Fox accepted that “cost is always an element”, but was adamant that once people saw the benefits of going online it would become “less of an issue”, adding that “there are more products and services than there have ever been at a lower price.”

She said that her experience with and other companies had given her a “sense of duty” to do what she could to help spread the benefits of digital literacy, which she compared to literacy in Victorian Britain.

“Otherwise I couldn’t imagine why I’ve been doing this for no money, working this hard for the last three years,” she quipped.

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