Exclusive: Lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox to be digital champion

The government is poised to appoint internet pioneer Martha Lane Fox as a digital champion.

The government is poised to appoint internet pioneer Martha Lane Fox as a digital champion.

The high-profile appointment is part of the government's efforts to get the 17 million people in the UK who do not have access to the internet or other digital technologies online. They include the elderly and the unemployed.

The founder of Lastminute.com was unveiled to a small audience including senior civil servants, representatives from the UK Digital Task Force and charities Age Concern and Help The Aged, at a meeting in central London on Monday.

Lane Fox, one the trailblazers of the internet age, co-founded Lastminute.com in 1997, and sold the last of the shares in 2004 for £4.6m.

Lane Fox, who has a degree in ancient and modern history from Oxford University, is chairman of Lucky Voice, a chain of karaoke bars, and antigone.co.uk, which offers small grants to support organisations in the criminal justice sector. She also holds non-executive directorships at Marks & Spencers and Channel 4.

Members of the government were notable by their absence at the event this week. Paul Murphy, who had been minister for Wales, a remit that also included Digital Inclusion, was expected, but left the cabinet as part of the government's reshuffle.

Helen Milner managing director of UK online centres said, "Two years ago, the fact that a third of the population could not, would not or did not use computers and the internet was not seen as a problem that demanded attention. Now digital exclusion is officially recognised by the government not just as a factor in social exclusion but a root cause."

A spokeswoman for Digital Inclusion said it had not made any "official appointments yet" and was in the process of determining if Peter Hain, who returns as minister for Wales, will also hold the dual role.

"A decision has not yet been made on [where] the Digital Inclusion brief [will sit], and until that happens, nothing is official," she said.

Photo by Francesco Guidicini/Rex Features

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