Martha Lane Fox stands down as UK digital champion co-founder takes credit for pushing government to create portal and creating model for digital inclusion

Martha Lane Fox has stood down from the role of UK digital champion, where she tried to encourage central and local government to get people online, after just over three years in the role.

Fox gave no reason for the decision, but said that she would continue to be a "critical friend" to David Cameron in the House of Lords.

In her resignation letter to David Cameron, Lane-Fox said she takes credit for having prodded the government into creating its single portal, for starting the RaceOnline 2012 project to get everyone online, and for creating the "champion" model for digital inclusion which has been adopted across Europe.

She was appointed UK digital champion in June 2010. At the time there were about 10 million adults who had never been online, and Lane-Fox said "it is my mission to get as many of them online as possible".

However, it is unclear quite how successful that effort has been.

Responding to Lane Fox, Cameron said that "your work has helped establish a digital culture at the heart of government. That culture is, in turn, transforming how government works and stimulating a new digital economy, improving millions of lives each day." He said it was "a sign of your success that others are now copying our approach".

Neelie Kroes, the European Commission's leader of its digital agenda programme, called Lane Fox a "great inspiration and role model – [we] now have digital champions across the EU".

Mike Bracken, who leads the Government Digital Service team, said on its blog that she had been "an inspiration to us" and that "I'm pleased to say that there really is a digital culture right at the heart of government now, and that's all down to Baroness Lane Fox."

Fox, who co-founded the website in the 90s, will instead focus on the RaceOnline 2012 effort – now renamed Go On UK – which aims to bring the benefits of the internet to "every individual, organisation and community".

RaceOnline 2012 originally aimed to "get 100% of the UK population online by the time of the 2012 London Olympics" – but that proved impossible because of the resistance of many who are not online.

Figures published in August by the Office for National Statistics say that about 6.9 million people in Britain – principally the elderly, unemployed and disabled – have never been online.

The ONS said that there are 4m households without internet access – about 17% of homes – compared with 10m in 2006. Of homes with children, or with multiple adults, 97% are connected.

Those who don't have internet access told the ONS they "did not need it".

The number of households with an internet connection has risen steadily from 57% in 2005; in 2010, when Lane Fox was appointed, it was 72%.

Some analysts have suggested that the fall in the number of people who are not online, or have never used the internet, is principally determined by time: older people who had never used the internet have died, while those who had used the internet when younger now comprise part of the older cohort of the population.

ONS figures say that there are just under 500,000 deaths annually in the UK, suggesting about 1.5m deaths, principally from non-internet users due to age, who would be replaced with those turning 16 and would be "internet natives".


Charles Arthur

The GuardianTramp

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