I have a question for you. In the last 24 hours, how often did you use the Internet?
A couple of times? Several hours? Every waking minute?! You may or not be surprised to know, most of us now use the internet religiously to buy, share, sell, market, catch-up, watch, listen, work, complain, ask or quite simply to fill in time. For so many businesses today, like mine, we would not exist were it not for the internet.
It underpins everything we do. In the UK, by next year, the internet economy will make up 12.4% of GDP. Cue supporting graph:
Given the phenomenal economic value of the internet economy - I find it amazing that we (or any Western country for that matter), do not have a Government Department dedicated to the Internet? You may care to look at this list - 24 UK Ministries, 22 non-Ministerial departments and 349 Government agencies - not one of them contains the word 'Internet'. We have the Forestry Commission, the Rural Payments Commission, the Coal Authority and many more, it's amazing that in 2015 (let alone 2005), we don't have a sole Government body responsible for the Internet.
Imagine for a second if we did not have the Department for Transport - holding rail companies to account, managing airport expansion and motorway growth. Unthinkable isn't it?
The sad truth - and I'm sorry to be so blunt - is that most of our Government are digital dinosaurs. Most receive everything in paper form. Take the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, responsible for cyber-warfare as well as many other technical aspects of the military. I have it on good accord that he does not use or own a computer, period. Even a man who nearly became US President, John McCain, admitted in 2008 that he did not know how to use a computer.
This is in equal measures frightening and hilarious. Can you imagine our Energy Minister living in a tent in the woods, or our Education minister home-schooling his own children? That's the equivalent. There are plenty of successful businessmen in Parliament and the House of Lords, but none of them are what you would call tech entrepreneurs, and all come from the analogue era.
In the same way other Departments ensures we all have power and our roads, rail and airspace all function smoothly, here we are, in space year 2015, without a coherent executive body ensuring that the Internet is there for everyone to use.
What could be achieved with a Department for the Internet is an interesting question. Sure, it would not create online nirvana. But it could ensure high-speed internet access for all, advise citizens on cyber and hacking threats, (a bit like the FCO does for terrorism), expand 3/4G coverage across the UK, set data security standards, take a stand against the internet giants privacy grabs, and so-forth.
Here's hoping it won't be long before our Government starts thinking more like a successful tech company and dares to think differently.