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Digital Champion to focus on poorest six million
Tuesday 07 July 2009 12:57:50 by John Hunt

The poorest six million will be the primary focus according to Martha Lane Fox, Britain's digital champion, speaking at the Reboot Britain conference yesterday. Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of, is the governments appointed 'digital inclusion champion', and it will be down to her and a taskforce of experts to add direction to the findings of the Digital Britain report to help get people online.

An estimated 17 million people in Britain do not have 'net access, ranging through the elderly, the poor, and those who just don't want it. Ms Lane Fox believes targeting the poor will generate the most benefit, and this is particularly true following recent research which shows you can save up to £300 a year on energy bills alone by shopping around online.

"We are really going to focus, I hope, on the six million that are at the bottom of the pile. Partly because that's the right thing to do and partly because we know quite a lot about these people - who they are and where they live.

"It should matter to all of us because 80% of government interactions are with the bottom 25% of society. By keeping that 25% offline you are inherently keeping the cost of government high."

Martha Lane Fox, Digital Champion


Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
I hope they aren't thinking of handing out free equipment. A free connection would be safe but not a lot of use without a computer and potentially expensive for the rest of us.

It sounds like a nice idea but as with so many Labour initiatives the implementation is where it could come unstuck.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
you can lead an orse to water...
Lot easier to get the infrastructure right in the first place and make the water tempting instead of the muddy mess it is now (unless you are within a couple of Km of the exchange that is)
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Except speed really dosn't fit into this argument, cyberdoyle. Access to services dosn't require a high speed connection.

The basic 256KBit ADSL argument...
Posted by whatever2 over 8 years ago
Oh this sounds great... i've got a bright idea, lets give those that either cant afford, or don't know the slightest about how to use one, a connection for a computer. Then all the money the gov spends talking to these people will be saved. Except it clearly won't be.

I take it, telephone services were tried to great effect before this leap was made?
Posted by Essex over 8 years ago
Just another layer of Spin and blabber. This goverment is in a mess. because it never does anything for the people, let alone the people eho need help. such as the elderly and the poor. Whom are one and the same now. no thank to Brown policies.
Sounds as though this is a political vested PR stunt to ensure 'A business woman' is seen to promote New labour equality. I cant wait for the next round of 'gongs' to be anounced?
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
So what about this?

300 million of tax payer's money on free equipment and Internet access.

Would be interesting to see how many of those who apparently can't afford a PC or Internet access can afford 20 cigarettes a day.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
Regarding costs, etc, they are ridiculous. We already have some of the cheapest broadband internet in the OECD and certainly do not need that price lowered.

Give it a bit longer and the government will probably be wanting to nationalise an ISP. More tax and spend babysitting.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@Dixi:It'd also be interesting to see how long that equipment stays functional and in its intended location :-/

I wouldn't want to accuse the poor of being criminals but if I was short of food or had an important bill to pay I'd use the free equipment to learn how to use ebay to sell it.

There's more important things in life than using a computer.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
Those were my thoughts also Andrue. There are more important things in life and of course there will also be the stereotypical chavs who will flog the computer for fags / cider, hopefully this would be a tiny minority of course.

It's just stupid babysitting. If people don't want to attempt to get online leave them be, if it's important to people most will find a way!
Posted by Pigmaster over 8 years ago
The statement "particularly true following recent research which shows you can save up to £300 a year on energy bills alone by shopping around online" whilst true is only ever a one off as the next year will not see that sore of discount and then they will bumble around for pennies.

What would be better is for (example here) energy companies to off a single price for electricity and gas and not the myriad of schemes that now exist. One price for all and nice and simple to manage
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
competing prices and tariffs are a good thing, providing you're on the cheaper ones. You don't need the internet to get a good deal though, you can read a newspaper or make a phone call and determine the cheapest tariff - may even be easier.

The web is only relevant to pure online tariffs which are cheaper to provide.
Posted by timmay over 8 years ago
Price isn't really the problem especially as having an internet connection can save you loads of money and time. So the government should not be wasting Tax payers money by giving broadband + computer to the poor.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
scuse me Dawn, but access to services does need a good connection, because you can't access them when people with good connections closer to the exchange are gobbling bandwidth doing innovative stuff, sharing things and generally using up the line capacity. Therefore someone on the end of the line gets timeouts. Therefore the banking online chucks you off, you miss things on ebay, the dvlc makes you start again... etc
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
cont: Therefore if you have a poor connection chances are your neighbour does too, so word gets round and there is no peer pressure to get 'broadband' so they don't. That is why a great many don't use it, and no amount of govt hype will convince them. I hope govt does give them 'free' connections and then it will see the real problem for itself.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
cyberdoyle people nearer the exchange don't get priority on the bandwidth just access to more of it when available. In congestion conditions all lines receive an equal amount of the bandwidth so whether you have 20Mbit or 2Mbit sync if there's 1.5Mbit left that's what you get. If the backhaul is so congested browsing is timing out it will affect all those sharing it.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
cost of access is certianly not the problem, broadband in this country is already extremely low priced. The cost of a computer that is net capable is also affordable.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
No Cyber, it certainly does not require a fast connection. Contention is another issue entirely from the base speed of the connection.

And "low priced" dosn't cut it, the low price services come with stupid restrictions on their usage which often can greatly boost the actual price if people dare to use the connection. And it's still a considerable premium on a basic phone line.

And hundreds of pounds is not "affordable" when you're poor.
Posted by captflint over 8 years ago
A large proportion of the population who do not have internet just could not use it - many have problems using a tv handset.
The modern pc is far too complex to maintain and use - what they need is a "dumb" keyboard connected to their tv.
As for having and using a printer with ink and paper, forget it.
Then there are the million or so, I guess, who prefer to remain relatively incommicado.

Are we to supply free electricity, mainatenance assistance, ink, paper, replacements for lost and stolen kit/

Its madness.

Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
who says computers cost hundreds of pounds? my sister got a cheap 2nd hand one with monitor for £40 which does the job, she then took advantage of a commercial offer to effectively spread the payments for a brand new laptop for her daughter for a year. She is most certianly in the poor category and has managed it. Access to internet (libraries, schools) is an important issue, buying people new pcs and possibly paying for their broadband is another thing.
Posted by whatever2 over 8 years ago
Yes, but she knows what she's doing. Survey a range of pensioners about what a monitor is, then come back with the answers.

Affordability of the connection itself is a small part of the problem...unless your looking at expensive solutions for those that can't get it from the exchange... sticking those figures into the stats would skew the results, but as ever nobody is bothering to say how they reached their conclusion.
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
The Reboot Britain website tells you what to expect, all show, no substance.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
chrysalis - Second Hand. Stop right there. And credit? Er yea, sorry, very bad idea for low earners.
Posted by maximise over 8 years ago
For those commentators above who appear to show a real ignorance of the situation - we have an economic crisis on our hands - and, quite simply, countries that do not think ahead of the competition will only fall into deeper recession.

The current Home Access Pilot is drawing to a close and by the end of the year many families on the wrong side of the Digital Divide will get the support they desperately need.

Obviously lessons are being learnt from the Pilot, - better communication with parents, simpler 'idiots guides' etc etc.


Posted by maximise over 8 years ago
Although G.Brown is not one of my heroes the educational initiative to get all our youngsters up to speed, along with their less-able parents and grandparents is not a bad thing!

Before making so many unintelligent comments perhaps people should study the HAP at:
Posted by dunston over 8 years ago
I have never seen such a thread that is full of narrow mindedness and downright shameful attitudes towards the less well off that you lot are. You should be ashamed of yourselves,
AndrueC “and potentially expensive for the rest of us” look at fuel tax instead, read up first before making open-ended rhetorical statements.
By even posting you would not want to accuse the poor you are doing just that because it what you’re thinking by even writing it in an open forum, Oh BTW is your NF subscription up to date?
Posted by dunston over 8 years ago
By even posting you would not want to accuse the poor you are doing just that because it what you’re thinking by even writing it in an open forum, Oh BTW is your NF subscription up to date?
Posted by dunston over 8 years ago
@ whatever2 You were clearly born of high breeding by the lack of your insight into the “WHY” are the “worse off” in lack of “HOW TO USE” computers, but because you think you know how to use one makes you superior and a judge on what is a waste and what is not.
@Dixinormous you imply that if they can afford those they can afford a PC. Well can you afford to smoke/drink? Or course you can, how silly of me, you are a user who knows that ALL low earners all Smoke, good boy how observant of you.
Posted by dunston over 8 years ago
Your view again on stereotypical chavs shows your own naivety and closed mind. Did you have a bad experience with a female when you were a boy? Oh dear, how sad.
The list goes on, really you lot should be ashamed that you even wrote any of your statements. Maybe a think and a retake of just how WELL off you are before you go slandering and finger pointing at the less well off would sever you better that making a total and utter arse of your selves to the world. No wonder the worlds gone mad with PC folk hiding behind their real faces like you lot have proven to be doing.
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