Martha Lane Fox has a dream…
Perhaps, as I have worked in the internet sector my whole life, I view things through biased eyes. But it seems to me that our digital economy must be at the centre of all this: not just the startups that innovate or the speed of the infrastructure, but the ethics and morals that will guide us.
Which will, of course, be the ethics and morals that Martha shares.
So what might such a country look like? It could be one that celebrates not just digital skills but digital understanding – the ability to both use technology and to comprehend, in real terms, the impact that it has on our lives. Estonia has been investing in tech education since 1998, when all schools in the country went online; today, companies such as Skype are worth billions of dollars and, as co-founder Taavet Hinrikus told the Economist back in 2013, high-school students now dream of being entrepreneurs instead of rock stars.
Why don’t we concentrate on what they actually become, rather than what they dream of becoming?
I suspect the number of entrepreneurs will turn out to be equivalent to the number of rock stars,. in the real world.
It could be one that builds a sector where the people who make and maintain our technology are as diverse as the people who use it. France has just announced a new programme to promote gender equality in start-ups – a smart move, since diverse teams are profitable teams.
If they were, businesses being all about profit, after all, there’d be no need for a programme to promote this – the ‘greedy capitalist bastards’ would be ensuring their lineup looked like the United Nations.
If such a programme is genuinely needed, it tells you that it’s not necessarily true.
It could be one that stops asking what our government can do for tech companies and starts asking tech companies what they can do for the government.
Ummm, yes, I can’t see that going hideously wrong, can anyone else?
It could be one that lets young people explore the online world in anonymity as they grow. The EU is working on a plan to allow young people to delete their internet history aged 18, tackling head-on one of the major anxieties faced by parents and teachers alike.
Thus ensuring they submerge further into their ‘no consequences’ ball of cotton wool, and so never learn the painful lessons we all need to learn in order to grow?
We need to go beyond basic skills to raise the first generation of native digital understanders – people who, unlike most of the rest of us, know where and how their technology is made. Imagine a Britain where tech no longer scares or dazzles us, where it is as useful but unremarkable as a wristwatch. In such a society, we would be less likely to fall prey to scams, make bad policy choices, or be taken in by gadgets that serve no purpose and solve no problem.
Yes, in Martha’s Brave New World, people woulds….errr, stop being people. Somehow.