Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 01:15 UK

Go online to 'earn and save more'

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Martha Lane Fox, Britain's digital inclusion champion, tells HARDtalk why she believes it is vital that everybody is given internet access and training

Getting online can save people money and allow them to earn more, says Martha Lane Fox.

Ms Lane Fox, the UK's Digital Champion, is considering ways to get the four million poorest Britons to sign up to the internet.

Research commissioned by her office showed that technology can provide a "route out" of poverty.

She is also hoping to galvanise broadcasters to put internet storylines in soap operas.

"The jury is still out" on whether broadcasters will adopt such a storyline, she told the BBC.

But it could be a good way of bringing the issue of digital exclusion to a wider audience, she added.

The co-founder of lastminute.com was describing her new role and how she intends to tackle the issue of digital exclusion.

Some 10 million adults in the UK have never been online and Ms Lane Fox is targeting the poorest 4 million, with the aim of getting a large proportion of this group online by 2012.

Route out

Martha Lane Fox
Martha Lane Fox is best known as co-founder of LastMinute.com

She commissioned a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers to make the economic case for getting online.

It found that digitally excluded households could save between £270 and £560 a year, depending on their economic circumstances, by going online.

Being online can help the unemployed increase their lifetime earnings by £12,000, while internet-savvy workers can increase their earnings by £8,000.

The study also found that the government could save at least £900m a year if all digitally excluded adults got online and made just one electronic contact per month.

Ms Lane Fox has put the lobbying of politicians high on her agenda.

"Over half of MPs don't think digital exclusion is an issue and one of my roles is to keep up the pressure on government," she said.

The government recently dropped its Digital Inclusion Minister and the role now forms part of Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms' remit.

Ms Lane Fox is also keen to build a "peer-to-peer network" of people who have received online training and are prepared to pass that training on.

She acknowledges that it is going to be a hard movement to start.

People's taskforce

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

"We will have to build this up person by person. It is worth having a big ambition and if I can get a thousand people to volunteer and have an impact on another thousand, then that's a start," she told the BBC.

As part of this she intends to set up a "people's taskforce", made up of individuals from the economic group she has targeted, who will give their opinions on future strategies.

Ms Lane Fox has also been in talks with retailers to see if any are prepared to provide a package of services and offer bonuses for those who go online.

Electrical retailer Comet has agreed to offer a service aimed specifically at older people.

She told the BBC she remained "passionate" about her role.

"I get frustrated when I feel I get back only negativity. I don't see this as a controversial issue," she said.

"The projects I have visited prove that technology can provide a route out for people in a spectacular way and I hope to bring continued focus on the issue," she insisted.



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