Expansion urged for the Web's upcoming 25th year

A vision of digital services nationwide in Britain, home of the World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, should be a priority as the web approaches its 25th year, an official told her countrymen last week. Baroness Martha Lane Fox urged the government to fulfil Berners-Lee’s vision for the World Wide Web, but has warned that this may be a bumpy year for the government’s digital service (GDS).

It is approaching the 25th year since Berners-Lee first created the World Wide Web and Lane Fox told delegates at a digital government event this week that if GDS is successful in transforming services for citizens, this would be a good way to honour the British inventor.

tim berners lee IDGNS

Tim Berners-Lee

“I’ve been on a mission to make sure that the UK recognises Tim’s amazing achievement [this year]. But when I stand here, you guys [GDS] can help—I don’t think there could be a better testament to his invention than government, one of the most important forces in UK economy and society, embracing the web in the way that he wanted. Making it open, making it inclusive, making it transparent, making it available to all people at the best possible quality,” said Lane Fox. “It is in your gift to continue what Tim started and what an incredible position to be in—to be able to lead the world in how government thinks about the delivery of its services.”

She added, “On the behalf of Tim, please continue on this journey, because the UK has an opportunity to be world leading. We are doing lots of exciting things in the technology space and it never stops. It’s a bit of a struggle, it’s quite hard, but it’s worth doing and worth continuing.”

The co-founder of Lastminute.com, Lane Fox was appointed in June 2010 to advise and challenge government and the wider public sector on how to get citizens online. She was instrumental in the creation of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the move to a single domain for all government information, Gov.uk, which has become an award-winning website.

Initially a small project within the Cabinet Office, GDS has grown to become an influential asset in Whitehall that is advising and working with departments on numerous projects. GDS was showcasing some of its ‘exemplar’ digital services this week, which include an online system to register to vote, which will be in use from June.

However, despite growing success, Lane Fox warned that this growth may make it a difficult "teething" year for the department.

“Please don’t be dispirited if the journey is a bit more bumpy this year, keep calm and carry on," she said. "This is the hard bit. I remember at lastminute.com when people would come up to my desk and say ‘it’s just not the same anymore’. The things like cake on Fridays and things messing up in the middle of the night. But you are growing up, you’re become more professional. You lose some that other stuff, but you gain a lot—the potential for real scale change, being one of the most important,” she said.

“Everybody goes through the teething pains, there’s always bumpy bits in the road and it requires absolute commitment and total clarity to keep going. I think that’s what this next year is going to be about,” Lane Fox added. "It would be amazing to look back and say this really was the year where we moved from government thinking ‘it’s quite interesting,’ to [GDS] being a proper paradigm shift in how things are done.”

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