On March 30th, Martha Lane Fox delivered the annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture on BBC with an eloquent and passionate call for the creation of a new civic institution charged with making the UK the “most digital nation on the plant”. The institution she envisaged, and provisionally named “Dot Everyone”, would boost the needs of the civic, public and non-commercial side of the internet while simultaneously providing the infrastructure, skills and training which private companies are desperately looking for.
From our Citizen Centric perspective, CaSMa was especially interested in Lane Fox’s vision that Dot Everyone might function as a catalyst to reshaping the balance of power away from the near complete dominance by big commercial technology platforms. Instead giving citizens a stronger voice in the debate about “everything from online privacy to how we build smart cities”.
As first priorities for Dot Everyone, Lane Fox proposes three areas which she thinks could “best demonstrate the opportunities we should be grabbing with both hands: education, women and ethics.”
Education is listed as first priority because, as the late activist Aaron Swartz put it, “It’s not OK not to understand the Internet anymore”. Since the “internet is the organising principle of our age, touching all our lives, every day”, Dot Everyone would educate everyone, making sure that “those in power understand how the internet can help us redefine public services, improve the lives of the most vulnerable, bolster our economy”. Dot Everyone would also have a mission to ensure that “the 10 million adults who [currently] can’t enjoy the benefits of being online because they lack basic digital skills, no longer miss out”.
As second priority, Lane Fox lists the need to “put women at the heart of the technology sector”, citing the statistic that “currently there are fewer women in the digital sector than there are in Parliament [22.8%]”. Based on the philosophy that “something that is for everyone should be built by everyone” and citing obvious masculine tech failures such as “the Apple Health Kit that went to market without anything to do with periods”, Lane Fox advocates that “building an awesome cohort of female coders, designers, creators would help make [Britain] the most digitally successful country on the planet and give us a real edge.
The third priority for Dot Everyone would be a “role in unpicking the complex moral and ethical issues that the internet presents”, such as the implications of an internet embedded in your home appliances, children’s online rights and even the limits of acceptable use of drones.
Since CaSMa’s mission is to address the ethical challenges around social media and to enable users to gain more control of their personal data, we strongly believe that an institution like the proposed Dot Everyone could play an important role in support of citizen rights.
Based on our mission, CaSMa has engaged with Dot Everyone-like activities, such as our participation at the Web We Want festival in November 2014, our workshop on Social Media and Metal health (January 2015), our workshop on Ethics for Business & Personal Data for SMEs (February 2015) and our contribution to the Future Fest Fringe event in March 2015.
In the coming months CaSMa will continue these activities, starting with the iRights Youth Juries which we will run in April 2015, participation in the Web We Want festival in May 2015, the ESRC Festival of Social Science in November 2015 and many more.