back to article Martha Lane Fox to clone 10m copies of self

Martha Lane Fox has launched a campaign to make sure everybody in Britain of working age has heard of Martha Lane Fox by 2015. It's an ambitious goal, especially since she doesn't actually have her quango any more - her Digital Services Unit was created in March but abolished last month. This hasn't stopped her soaking up …


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  1. Mr Young

    Ooooh nooo

    Not MLF - can you make it go away?

  2. Richard 120
    Paris Hilton

    I'll bite...

    Who is she then?

  3. Pete 2 Silver badge

    You can lead a horse to water

    but you can't make it do the backstroke.

    This seems to be what MLF wants to do. Although the report admits that a lot of the people who don't have internet connections are quite happy like that and don't feel the need to have it, she seems to think that they still should become connected. The tone of the document is one of I'm an internet professional. I think it's good-and-lovely-and-fun-and-happy-and-useful-and-safe-and-easy and so should you.

    The one group that does merit more attention - although their invisibility in the pamphlet is just as great as it is in real life - is the disabled population. The document tells us that 48% of disabled people don't regularly use the internet .... and then says almost nothing else about them, except for a solitary word here or there in a couple of bullet points.

    Although we've had the Disabilities Discrimination Act in force for many years it's had little effect on the people it was meant to help. The rise of flash has seen to that. (and the general cluelessness of the vast majority of website aurthors). Maybe if Martha spent a little more time digging beneath the surface of the fact that some people don't use the internet and examined WHY, she'd be in a better position to make a real difference to the one group that can't (or don't want to be) helped by the simple expedient of putting more PCs in libraries and Job Centres and letting people have access to them, there.

    1. Colin Morris


      MLF? Had she had kids yet? She does look strangely attractive, tbf!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      speaking of the disabled

      One of the things that turns disabled people away from the internet is poor accessibility. You know, things like unreadable fonts and low contrast colour schemes (peach on white or maybe white on peach for example) so I presume Martha is going to encourage good accessibility in government publications online?

      After reading the document I did a search for the word accessibility. Not really surprising she didn't use that word much.

  4. Colin Millar

    Is this the same............

    ...............Martha Lame Fox that brought us the news that the lifetime cost of not being on the web was a big looking number that, when translated into real speak was about 3 bob pa.

    Or maybe its Martha Tame Fox - the spectacularly crap dotcom "entrepreneur" of the spectacularly failed lastgasp.con

    ....................I think we should be told.

  5. Wheaty73

    My eyes!

    I couldn't bring myself to read that past the first few pages. Complete twaddle. BOLD italics?

    And her map of refuseniks over 65 - most live in rural counties, shockingly. People who want the internet, have the internet. Those who don't, don't. Leave it at that. We have libraries for the odd time someone needs to buy something off Amazon.

    God I hate this woman, and everything she stands for.

  6. Mystic Megabyte

    Radio 4

    Thanks for the article, now I know who it was spouting complete bollox this morning when I turned the radio off.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    If the internet is a given right, why do I pay VAT to access it!

    Its all very well saying that the internet is a essentual communications form that everybody should have access too, but it does contradict why we pay VAT as VAT is for luxery items and luxury items are not essential. So if she is right and the goverment believe she is right - abolish VAT on internet subscriptions, else stop wasting our money with pipedreams.

    Lets face it, not everybody wants a phone, that in itself tells us that not everybody will want the internet, if its being forced upon as as the only way to do things then its not a luxery item and as such VAT should be dropped with regards to it.

    If you want to have your cake and eat it, make two cakes.

  8. Skizz

    That PDF...

    ...should carry a health warning - it made my eyes bleed looking at it.

  9. Oliver Mayes

    I love how... 58 has a quote about web accessibility and supporting people with visual impairments, and the text is in pale pink on a white background.

  10. John Robson Silver badge

    No money needed

    According to her on the Beeb this morning.

    After all the gubbinment has already got lots of computers in schools and DOCTORS surgeries...

  11. Lamont Cranston

    Caught her on Radio 4, this morning,

    explaining that there's no need to persuade ISPs into improving their service, we just need to get more people on-line.

    As a friend was quick to point out, that's like saying we can all reap the rewards of improved access to transport by putting more cars on the M25.

  12. Merchman

    The goggles, they do nothing!

    Good god, the formatting in that document is terrifying. I suppose that's one way to pad ~20 pages of plain text up to a 65 page document. How are people meant to take her seriously in her advocating of all things digital when it is clear she (or at least someone under her control) cannot create a simple Word document.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    I heard this. Is the new government still paying? Wasn't she Labour's Interweb tsar?

    The number of information have nots - 10m - corresponds to the number of adults who canot read or write, or at least comprehend written English i.e. they're not have-nots, they're Can't reads!

    I've run into this before. I was working in a crap job in my holidays. I had to set-up a industrial dish-washer which required the operator to perform a series of take for it to work properly.

    After a couple of weeks of dissasters, I found out that a small number of the 10 or so people operating the dishwasher could not read at all and a slightly larger number could read but could not comprehend the set of instructions - Google functional literacy. In the end I ended having to show them how to operate the machine. It took about 10 times before they memorised the steps.

    I think Martha needs to go to 10m people's houses and repeat 'How to use the Internet' 10 times. Good luck.

    Or she just tell them that the interweb is full of pron. That will incentives a large number of the 10m. Just think - learn to read with Paris Hilton!

  14. Tatsky

    Now you know how I feel

    I suffer from Migraines, the early onset of which affects my vision making things blurred, text is difficult to read etc. I had great difficulty explaining to my doctor how my vision was affected.

    Well, just take a look at this PDF and in the first 3-4 pages (especially the foreword) you will get an idea exactly how I feel when a migraine first kicks off.

    This is horrendous! Italics, bold, different fonts, colours.

  15. Mark York 3 Silver badge

    MLF = Lintilla?

    Lintilla is a rather unfortunate woman who has (as of fit the eleventh of the radio series) been cloned 578,000,000,000 times due to an accident at a Brantisvogan escort agency. While creating six clones of a wonderfully talented and attractive woman named Lintilla (at the same time another machine was creating five hundred lonely business executives, in order to keep the laws of supply and demand operating profitably), the machine got stuck in a loop and malfunctioned in such a way that it got halfway through completing each new Lintilla before it had finished the previous one. This meant that it was for a very long while impossible to turn the machine off without committing murder, despite lawyers' best efforts to argue about what murder actually was, including trying to redefine it, repronounce it, and respell it in the hope that no one would notice.

  16. Danny Roberts 1


    That document is awful! Random blobs of colour, random fonts and margins!

    Credited (on the penultimate page) to Host Universal, an ethical brand development agency.

  17. Rob 101

    I want a copy

    Of PDF Creator, Crayon edition

  18. Richard IV

    Flipping heck!

    Could she have chosen a less accessible formatting?

    Either the glyph height is inconsistent in the font she's chosen, or small caps and caps have been mixed in what is surely the PDF analogue of the blink tag. Those headings read like the profile of a mountain stage in the Tour de France and are just as hard going.

  19. Alex 14
    Thumb Up

    You guys are friends?

    Only I wouldn't have her name in my memory at all if it weren't for your articles. Every little helps spread the word about MLF, I suppose.

  20. James Hughes 1

    Although MLF is a bit bonkers

    There are some good points.

    1) She is right that you can buy stuff a lot more cheaply on the web.

    2) She is right that moving a lot of government cack on to the web will save money and time (for government and the individual). Esp. unemployment services.

    3) She is right that to get 1) & 2), everyone needs to have some sort of web access.

    However, to think that this will all be paid for by industry, and that everyone will want to do it is a bit mad.

    One point that did seem a bit harsh was the employment stuff. People who are unemployed are expected to have net access to get at the jobseeker stuff. Except net access costs money. Which unemployed people may not be able to afford. Its all right saying 'go to the library' but out here in the sticks, the nearest library is 8 miles away. With no bus service. Even the local jobcentre is 15 miles away. Most unemployed cannot even afford to get to the jobcentre, never mind net access.

  21. Doshu

    Q n A

    Q: Who the f**k is MLF??

    A: An annoying nobody.


  22. Anonymous Coward

    Got any new ideas, MLF?

    The Brownies already have a Computer badge. The Guides can use computers as part of the Communicator badge. The Scout Association already has an Information Technology Staged Activity Badge (that can be earned by Beaver Scouts, Cub Scouts, Scouts and Explorer Scouts). The Scouts had a Computer badge decades ago. In the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, it is already possible to select Digital Lifestyles in the Skills section, and IT related projects can also be undertaken in other sections, such as Volunteering.

    How about Martha Lane Fox refrains from telling these youth organisations what activities to run, and in return they could refrain from suggesting that she go run an Internet start-up.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Pete 2

    You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think. - Dorothy Parker

    seemed relevant, somehow



    I was at an APComms meeting in Parliament not so long ago. MLF gave a speech advocating a future where citizens would be subcutaneously chipped, and able to synchronise themselves with data stored in the cloud.

    I looked incredulously at the person sitting next to me, who was thankfully circling his right ear with his biro and crossing his eyes.

  25. Anonymous Coward


    Bugger, wasted a click. Misread MLF as MILF.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      I Read That As MILF too.

      Perhaps MLF needs re-initialising to avoid such confusion.


      For Martha Lane F O perhaps?

  26. Nux Vomica

    Nice to see we've still got some spending cuts left to make.

    Anyone got the link to the Facebook page for government spending cuts suggestions?

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Arggh my eyes!

    Paris, because she (unlike that document) looks peachy in pink...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    who read MLF ...

    ... as MILF not I

  29. DavidK

    And here was me thinking

    that Scouting was about outdoor activities.

  30. TkH11


    Martha Lane Fox - the one that set up that famous website that was such a brilliant business venture that it almost (or did) went bankrupt?

    Why is she so famous? Answer: Because she's an intelligent, modertately good looking woman that was involved in an internet business venture which covered a new concept.

    I said "involved in an internet business", because I'm quite sure she doesn't have the techy skills to create the website, I suspect that was her male business partner that built the site, and continued to work on the tech side when she left the company.

    Further, had it been an ugly old battle axe that created the site then she wouldn't be famous.

    Does anybody remember the name of the guy that was involved in creating the website business? And he's almost certainly the one that did all the technical work! No. of course not. The media focussed on her for reasons I already mentioned.

    Mention an IP packet or a CRC code and I'm sure she'll look at you with a puzzled expression on her face.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Brent Hoberman


  31. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Created by Vegetables


    "A Host Universal production in collaboration with Tomato"

    Tell that makes sense. More sense that that PDF.

    Maybe there should have been a few Tomatos helping out.

    My eyes are killing me.

  32. Pirate Peter

    the government want me to access more services online?

    i may when they stop wasting money on this sort of crap , facebook groups (which i do not have a profile on because it leaks PII worse than a hm gov website), giving my date to google analytics because they can't be bothered to analyse data themselves and prove they can look after my data securely

    and then make our ineffective enforcement agencies like the ICO grow a pair and apply real penalties to those who abuse my data

    then i may just engaged with hm gov online and only then

    not wasted my time reading the document after seeing some of the comments here

    i wonder what a screen reader app for the visually impair would make of the document


  33. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Damn You, el Reg!

    I had never heard of Martha Lane Fox.

    Now I have.

    I can never now regain my previous happy state of not knowing: you have done irreparable damage to my life. I'll be forwarding the therapy bills.

  34. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    You've got to laugh

    I'm not going to join the bandwagon of those criticising the design. Yes, it is pretty shit but I think that's because it's "inspired" by the London Olympics stuff what with that catchy "Race online 2012" title.

    Just grabbed this at near random:

    "and it has some of the world’s cheapest broadband prices"

    Utter fail. Prices are never cheap. But even then without a citation it's bollocks. Even the "according to the MLF finger-in-the-gash study of two minutes ago" would be an improvement as demonstrable or contestable. As it stands unsubstantiated drivel and that goes for most of the pamphlet.

    "Offline households are missing out on average consumer savings of £560 per year."

    hm, at least we have a citation. Hang on it's from those gravy train friends at PWC.

    Anyway I wonder what the cost of entry to those savings are and where there likely to be had. Add to that some basic research on how shit the disadvantaged are at managing their money.

    "3.6 million low-income households are missing out on total savings of over £1bn a year from

    shopping and paying bills online."

    Cunningly repeat the above figures as a new benefit. Shit argument made twice is still shit and that's without invoking faecal mathematics.

    Paying bills online may be convenient but it is the businesses who save the money not having to deal with all that papery stuff.

    I could go on but have little interest in this reverse beauty contest.

    Full marks to MLF for keeping herself in the headlines. Bound to be worth some little junket and I'm afraid we'll be hearing more from her.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An accurate assessment...

    I heard MLF in full twaddle-emitting mode on the Today Programme yesterday. The thing that caught my attention was her remark that "there are 40,000 computers in schools that sit idle at nights and weekends". So what? Is she proposing that those school computers be thrown open to the IT-challenged? If so, when - presumably at nights and weekends? Who will supervise these proceedings? How much will it cost to hire armed guards to prevent people from loading the damn things onto trucks and driving away with them? (Assuming they're not so obsolete no one would want them, which, judging by the school computers I have seen...)

    The obvious analogy, I should think, is with having a car. That certainly confers many advantages, and is almost a necessity for many jobs. But the government doesn't undertake to give everyone a car - let alone pay for fuel, servicing, insurance, tax (!),...

    If you want a car, you save up for one or buy it on the never-never; then you need to take driving lessons and pass your test; and you do (and pay for) all this on your own initiative.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    10,000,000 Can't be wrong.

    I started working with computers in 1972 and had an account with IBM Global Network in around 1993/4, then went to Demon... So, a fairly early adopter.

    Because of fairly successful efforts by government and business to infest it with their filth, I am now just on the edge of saying goodbye.

    The only thing which has kept me on board for the last year or so is the satisfaction I get from writing sad little messages on sites like this and the newspapers, but I am getting a bit fed up with this now as well.

    As other commenters have said, maybe those 10,000,000, feel like Clark Gable... Maybe they don't GIVE a damn.

  37. Spleen

    Ow, my eyes

    From now on can we formally refer to MLF as Martha "Green Ink" Lane Fox?

    I expect I "lose" quite a lot of money every year because I don't hoard the coupons that fall out of newspapers and magazines. Is it because I am a mental incompetent who needs re-education and counselling to stop my economic self-harm? No, it's because I can't be bothered. It's amazing the extent to which the concept of free will is utterly lost on government bureautards.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Re: Why?

    "Why is she so famous? Answer: Because she's an intelligent, modertately good looking woman that was involved in an internet business venture which covered a new concept."

    You left out "from a wealthy, well-connected family". Surprising how often that gets skated over in profiles of the media-friendly 'self-made'.

    Icon: William H Gates III.

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