Business

One of Europe’s top businesswomen quits her role as U.K. Internet champion

Above: Lane Fox is also the youngest female member of the House of Lords

Dotcom tycoon Martha Lane Fox resigned today from her position as the United Kingdom’s “Digital Champion” after just three years in the role.

Lane Fox is one of the best known businesspeople in the U.K. — she’s the founder of online travel service LastMinute.com, a board member at British public-service broadcaster Channel 4, and retail giant Marks & Spencer. Earlier this year, the newly ennobled Baroness Lane Fox of Soho became the youngest women ever put into the House of Lords.

Lane Fox responded to a request for comment that she is currently traveling and unavailable for interviews. It’s not yet clear who will take her place as the U.K.’s next Digital Champion.

In 2010, the government appointed Lane Fox to the new Digital Champion role to encourage Brits to use the Internet. In the U.K., an estimated 7 million people (the U.K. has 63.23 million people as of 2012) are still not yet online.

The original goal was to move 100 percent of Brits online, although that initiative has proven far trickier than initially imagined. The Guardian reports that people without Internet access have proven resistant to modern technologies, particularly the elderly, disabled, and unemployed.

Lane Fox is still bent on tackling this challenge, but will focus her attention on philanthropic work. Earlier today, Lane Fox announced on Twitter, and in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, that she will be stepping down to lead digital skills charity Go ON UK. The goal for the nonprofit is to promote basic online education, particularly among the 24 percent of people in the North East of the country who lack digital skills. Lane Fox currently chairs the Go ON UK board.

“Your work has helped establish a digital culture at the heart of government,” said David Cameron in response to Lane Fox’s resignation.

In the letter, Lane Fox clearly articulates how she contributed to “the digital transformation of transactional government services” in three ways (how’s that for leaning in?). She takes credit for pushing the government to adopt a single gov.uk portal, and for her work to get people connected by the end of the Olympic year, as part of the Race Online 2012 initiative.

Finally, and perhaps her most impressive achievement, Lane Fox describes how she set an example for other European countries. Many of the European Union member nations have now appointed their own Internet champions, overseen by Neelie Kroes, the European Commission’s leader of its digital agenda program.


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