DOT EVERYONE: what is it and will it catch on?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ll be well aware we are now officially in General Election mode.

That’s right, this week saw the political aficionados unveil their blueprints for Britain, so get prepared for five weeks of political porn*.

But as Cameron’s cohorts wage war with Milliband’s merry men for the prime real estate that is 10 Downing Street, keep an eye out for a different call to action that is bubbling away in the background.

I’m talking about the battle for control of the internet.

This is very much a thing. According to Martha Lane Fox—who has launched a petition on—the values of the internet “have always been a dialogue between private companies and public bodies”, and something needs to change.

So what does this mean and what is Martha after?

Put simply, Martha reckons the internet doesn’t work for everyone (in more ways than just faulty wi-fi) and there is a genuine need for a public institution for the digital age, especially if Britain is to become the most digital nation on the planet

DOT EVERYONE would be the institution’s name, and amongst other things it would aim to do the following:

Educate everyone about the internet. Roughly 10 million adults are missing out on the internet because they lack basic digital skills. DOT EVERONE would work to put this right and help train up those lacking in basic digital skills.

The body would also put women at the heart of the technology sector. Who knew that, as a proportion, there are more women in parliament than in the digital sector? Certainly not me. Step forward DOT EVERYONE, which would look to help create a “cohort of female coders, designers and designers”.

Finally, DOT EVERYONE would lead the way when it comes to thinking about what the internet is here for, and how we should approach the moral and ethical issues it throws up.

It’s refreshing to hear someone put forward an idea, which at its core shouldn’t last forever – it needs to make itself redundant, Martha tells us.

And it certainly got off to a good start. The petition has been signed by over 8,000 people at the time of writing, and Martha has been quoted extensively across the national media since unveiling her idea at a Richard Dimbleby lecture.

Time will tell whether it has real legs. Martha has shone a bright light on the UK’s digital potential and its shortcomings, but it will take money and time to work.

My heart wants it to succeed, simply because of the gender imbalance within the industry and the 10 million Brits who don’t have the skills to get online.

But my head suggests otherwise. The internet, for better and for worse, is a place without normal rules and restrictions, let alone official institutions to help it find its way.

I just don’t quite know how, even with the best will in world and a public mandate, a body could be both welcomed and influential enough to steer the Titanic that is digital Britain.

If you think it can—and should—you can sign the petition here:

*Only true if you like: buzzwords, low-level personal jibes, promises, posters, blunders, blue ties, red ties, yellow ties etc.

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