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#Infosec18: Dystopic Internet Future Brewing in the East Says Martha Lane Fox

Internet stakeholders should worry less about the problems created by Silicon Valley and focus more on the increasingly dystopic online world being developed in Russia, China, Iran and elsewhere, according to Baroness Martha Lane Fox.

The Lastminute.com founder and cross-bench peer told attendees on day two of Infosecurity Europe of her concerns about Russian attempts to destabilize Western democracies and China’s controversial social credit system.

The latter seeks to give citizens points according to their behavior on- and offline, and restrict their lifestyles if scores fall below a certain level.

“We’ve become a bit obsessed with the West [when] we should be looking East,” she argued.

“We could easily put ourselves into a dystopian future in our heads … but we have it in our gift to own the future.”

To ensure the UK does so, work is needed to effect change at three levels: among lawmakers, individuals and corporations, Lane Fox claimed.

There is a particular challenge in changing the mindset of legislators from the current stance: “that no politician is going to lose votes by being negative about technology.”

“We need to upskill our legislators dramatically if we’re going to face the challenges of the coming years,” said Lane Fox.

However, politicians and civil servants were upskilled in this way during the creation of the Government Digital Service and gov.uk initiative, so it is possible, she added.

It will also be challenging to educate individuals about all things digital. Although 50% of respondents to a recent poll conducted by her new company Doteveryone claimed tech has helped them at an individual level, just 12% believe it helps society overall.

Key to the UK’s resilience in a post-Brexit world will be its ability not just to grow the digital economy, but to “flip the switch” and build a society enabled by technology – driving improvements in schools, transport, local government and more.

“We don’t have any option [post-Brexit] but to become the most modern digital nation we can be,” said Lane Fox.

However, in order to do so, the UK will have to tackle a profound technical skills deficit, she added.

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