Dot Everyone: To Be Brilliant at the Internet…

I watched the Martha Lane Fox Jonathan Dimbleby Lecture this week purely by chance. I was about to turn the TV off for bed when she started to grab my attention.

You can find details of the lecture and watch it online here if you haven’t already.

She made me think of my media savvy friend and the impact he and his company could have in helping to scope Dot Everyone, so I sent him a message telling him to watch.

I found her following statement inspiring:

It is within our reach for Britain to leapfrog every nation in the world and become the most digital, most connected, most skilled, most informed on the planet.

And I think that if we did that, it would not only be good for our economy, but it would be good for our culture, our people, our health and our happiness.

Why not? Britain has been at the forefront of so many changes, why shouldn’t we become the world leaders of the digital age?

There are a lot of disgruntled people in the world right now. It isn’t just in Britain. We are in the midst of one of the most important election campaigns in decades. A wrong decision by the nation now could see us sink deeper into the economic crisis we are, in some ways, clawing our way out of.

But politics isn’t that easy to resolve. The problem the politicians don’t tell you on election day when you cast your vote, is that in order for them to make the changes they promise the other parties have to vote in favour of them!

If they don’t agree now they won’t agree then and the changes won’t happen. In overly simplistic terms. It might be worth thinking about that when you place your x in the box come voting day!

But back to Dot Everyone. Since October I’ve been working in a new role. I’ve been testing and helping to develop IT systems for the Learning Trust I work for. It wasn’t the job I was hired for, I was given the task as a fill in before they could find time to explain my marketing roles.

But I threw myself at it. I’ve been using the internet for years, since my 7-year-old brother came home from school telling me about the internet and deciding to go to college to learn about how it worked. If he was learning about it at school it was bound to become important.

I vividly remember a conversation with my Mum one night after college in the late 90’s. I think the reason I still remember it so clearly was that I knew the importance of what I was learning on the future of my life.

I saw its potential, although I could never have expected the way and how quickly it developed. At the time I had just got my first mobile phone and it didn’t even have a camera let alone a wi-fi connection!

But back to explaining to Mum why we should connect our PC to the internet. At the time this was via a dial-up modem which required us to run a wire from the phone half way round the downstairs of our house so we could experience what the internet had to offer. You couldn’t use the phone at the same time so you were constantly interrupted by someone wanting to make a call. Not to mention the fact that dial up was hardly quiet!

So needless to say she wasn’t convinced. “But you can use it to book your holidays” I protested. “Why would I want to do that when I can just ring up and book them?” Her response. So I played up the advantages for my brother and sisters school work and we finally got the internet!

It’s hard to remember now what I used the internet for when we started out. But even harder for me to think of a day lately when I haven’t used it in some form. My phone uses it for me when I’m not in the hourly email push updates that just pinged to life.

Cut to 2015 and my Mum has a tablet, laptop, PC, wi-fi connected phone, eReader and spends large parts of her time playing internet games where you have to virtually bake and decorate cakes or collect jewels for fun. She’ll kill me for saying it, but its true! Oh and she is constantly looking at booking holidays online!

My Dad is still a technology dinosaur. Last year he learned how to use iPlayer. When they upgraded their mobile phones we introduced our parents to the delights of Wattsapp and created a family group which they keep deleting themselves off. His latest internet discovery is YouTube. Bless him, he asks us if we ever use it as it is a good way to watch music. He can now watch the band Elbow whenever he likes!

I’m 35 and in the last 20 years of my life the world has changed so fast, to say I remember the days before the internet makes me sound old. When I was born it wasn’t even compulsory to have seatbelts in cars, we had proper pins in our badges and kids didn’t seem to be allergic to anything. But you know what we all survived, maybe that was due to the late 80’s invention of health and safety. Stopping people from having too much fun for the last 30 years!

My sister who is 8 years younger than me screamed when I told her, in order for her to play the song she wanted on West Side Story LP soundtrack, she would have to turn the record over. She ran off screaming at my Mum saying “did you know you can play a record on both sides!” Now my sister has her very own turntable and her flat is filled with the sound of her LP collection of mostly pre 1970’s music, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley two of the favourites.

 

My brother was born into a world of CD’s, iPods, mobile phones and the internet. I was born into a world 12 years before when TV’s didn’t have remote controls, you had a set-top aerial and spent time moving it around to get a better picture, some people still had a second black and white TV that was on its last legs, TV wasn’t available 24 hours a day, we didn’t have videos and records and tapes were all the range!

My early childhood was captured in moving pictures with no sound and badly coloured small squared photos. Nowadays my life is captured in unflattering selfies and embarrassing videos in full colour and sound.

So you see in another 20 years who knows where we will all be?

My work background has always been in business. I studied business and economics at school and briefly at college. I worked in offices as a secretary and a PA. I studied and qualified to be a legal secretary and quickly realised it wasn’t for me. But I have got the most job satisfaction in the last 5 months working at scoping IT systems.

To be a part of taking something in its basic form from a specification and trying to break it for bugs and scope its development to having the end users say how much they enjoy using it has given me job satisfaction again.

My mind is drawn to asking questions and thinking scenarios through. What happens if I press this button? Wouldn’t this work better if we moved this? What about the future, can we use this to move forward, will it cover us?

I never had much interest in technology. I don’t care about the latest computers, mobile phones etc. If I can do what I want on it and it works I’m happy.

But it turns out I have an ability I didn’t realise for seeing and working in the digital age. I look at a website or app now and I’m thinking of how I would improve it. How I could make it better. What I would add to it.

The Learning Trust is a dinosaur in many ways when it comes to communication. I can see so many ways with little change we can bring it up to date. I trialled Twitter for 2 days and one user was already promoting our courses online to over 1000 followers. But then we got shut down by the Director. It was a short lived success story.

So Dot Everyone has excited me. It has made me think that maybe instead of being a PA which I was good at, maybe there will be a role for me in Dot Everyone.

It would be nice to see Britain leading the way again. For us to see some positive success stories on the news everyday, rather than the dark scenes that fill our TV screen and are happening all over the world everyday.

We need people to inspire us and fire up our imaginations and hopefully I wasn’t the only one who was inspired by Martha’s talk. Read or watch her speak and then sign the petition.

Don’t just have your say in the voting booth have your say online now. Ask the politicians to think of the internet and the role it can have in taking our country forward.

There is so much we need to do with the internet so we can make it a safer and more positive place to spend our time.

We just need to make a start and get moving. If we don’t we’ll find ourselves quickly left behind hanging onto our dinosaur technology!

Think of the BBC, the NHS. Let’s have no poverty of ambition – we can and should be inventing the definitive public institution for our digital age.

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