Martha Lane Fox and a vision of a united and robust digital economy

July 6, 2016

Martha Lane Fox wrote a thoughtful (as ever) piece in The Sunday Times last weekend in which she talks about spreading “digital skills to unite the nation”. In the wake of the Brexit vote she argues for an inclusion agenda in which the 12.6 million adults in the UK with no digital skills must have access to high quality and affordable internet infrastructure. She concludes by saying that “tech used well can unite everyone – not just the metropolitan elite”.

This raises three implications:

  • Firstly, there needs to be a committed focus on improving the IT infrastructure throughout the UK such that people anywhere can actually access a fast reliable service
  • Secondly, there needs to be the training put in place such that no one is excluded from the digital economy because they don’t know how to actually access the digital world
  • Thirdly, and this is where digital professionals take centre stage, we need to ensure that digital content is relevant and digital interfaces are simple, so that no-one is made to feel stupid or excluded

From Web Usability’s perspective, this just emphasises the need to really understand user needs through user research and then to test any interface with the people who are going to have to use it: a young mid 20s male developer living in London will have a completely different perspective from a middle-aged woman living in the north, but so much testing only goes on in London. Only by actually testing with real people all over the UK can we make sure that all the digital material we put out there is actually going to connect with the nation as a whole