Martha Lane Fox: Nine million Brits still without the internet

Lane Fox is spearheading Race Online 2012, a business-to-business campaign to bring the internet to every home in the country.

The campaign recruits businesses as partners to spread the message (and the cost) of trying to get these nine million people online. It's not an easy task. Nine million is a lot of people, most of whom are either elderly or on low-income.

And yet, Lane Fox has positioned her campaign away from any kind of class issue and more towards what she describes as a business opportunity.

"The most important thing we have done, I hope, is to shift the terms of the debate - recasting the digital divide from being a 'problem' for the government or charities to solve, to presenting it as an opportunity for all sectors, especially by building the case to businesses that our offline population represents a new customer base," she wrote on Marketing.com, after announcing that Mumsnet.com had just signed up as the campaign's 1,000th business partner.

Interestingly, lack of access isn't just limited to consumers. An Ad-ology survey carried out last year concluded that 46% of small businesses still don't have their own website.

More people becoming connected to the internet should be a major concern for the government and businesses in this country. It has grown to become the quickest way to connect with and inform potential customers.

"From the early days of Lastminute.com to the boardroom of Marks & Spencer, I have seen how valuable it is for companies to engage with customers through as many channels as possible. It makes for cheaper marketing and more fully engaged customers - both of which have an impact on the bottom line," says Martha Lane Fox, who spoke with Smarta about how the web has developed since she got started.

And, if you're one of those businesses that just hasn't got round to building that all-important site yet, check out Smarta's advice. We've got a whole section dedicated to building the perfect online destination.

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