Page last updated at 04:50 GMT, Saturday, 29 August 2009 05:50 UK

Olympic aim to get Britons online

Martha Lane Fox talks about her role as digital champion

The race is on to get as many British people online as possible by 2012, Martha Lane Fox has told the BBC.

As the government's new Digital Champion she has been charged with getting millions online who are not yet connected to the internet.

Speaking to BBC Business Editor Robert Peston, Ms Lane Fox said she wanted a "virtual race" to coincide with preparations for the 2012 Olympics.

She also said there were too few women working in technology in the UK.

"They've asked me to see what really clever applications of technology could help people get more employment, get more choices, take control of where they live of their own situation in a slightly more cohesive way," the co-founder of said.

She called for "a kind of virtual race to get as many people online by the Olympics alongside all the real physical races that will be going on."

Martha Lane Fox
Martha Lane Fox is best known as co-founder of

Some 17 million Britons are currently not online, either out of choice or because they cannot afford internet connectivity.

Ms Lane Fox has indicated that she wants to concentrate on the six million poorest "nonliners" first.

She will be relying on people already online to convince others to join them.

"The only way I think we can do that is if all of us as individuals sit down and think okay, how can I bring someone on this journey with me?

"Get kids training grannies, get all of us kind of plugging into our local communities to try and pull the whole country along.

"If we all took it on ourselves to train 10, 20 people, the job is done," she said.

Save money

She will be drawing on public and private schemes already up and running around the UK.

A recent survey showed a substantial minority of those without the internet would not want it under any circumstances.

Ms Lane Fox believes she can convince some of them by showing them the money they can save by going online.

On average, people with access save about £276 a year and earn up to 10% more than those who are not online, she said.

"All we're saying is, I actually believe you'll be able to do most of the things you enjoy with this tool," she added.

Ms Lane Fox began her career as a media consultant.

She went on to set up, with co-founder Brent Hoberman, the online travel company,, in 1998.

Car crash

At the height of the dot-com boom towards the late 1990s she was a symbol of the new breed of internet entrepreneurs.

She became one of the 100 richest women in the UK after the company went public in 2000.

Ms Lane Fox quit in 2003.

In 2004, she was involved in a severe car crash in Morocco and she has not fully recovered.

"No, it's not a comprehensive recovery and I don't think it ever will be," Ms Lane Fox said.

Not everyone is convinced by her strategy for promoting internet use.

"Before we recruit a team of enthusiasts to travel the country looking for people who don't use the internet we need to find out why these people are not already online," said Alex Salter, co-founder of broadband measurement firm SamKnows.

The full interview with Martha Lane Fox can be seen on Leading Questions with Robert Peston at 2230 BST on the BBC News Channel or watch it now by clicking here

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