E-Commerce Pioneer Martha Lane Fox Becomes Baroness - InformationWeek

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2/27/2013
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E-Commerce Pioneer Martha Lane Fox Becomes Baroness

British e-commerce innovator and 'digital champion' Martha Lane Fox has been given a place in the U.K's House of Lords.

Yesterday, Martha Lane Fox had the name she was born with. Today, you need to start calling her Baroness Lane Fox of Soho instead.

That's because the British entrepreneur and digital access champion has just been elevated to the U.K. Parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords.

That doesn't mean she has been knighted, but she is now a 'Peer.' That means she is able to sit with the Lords, on an equal footing with both bluebloods who sit there by ancient right and the majority of its members, who are political (sometimes with a small 'p') appointees like herself. She will act as a 'crossbencher' -- that is, an independent, not connected to any of the other political parties represented in either the Lords or the Commons and able to comment or vote on issues on a completely independent basis.

[ Could tax issues threaten U.K. government contracts for U.S. IT companies? Read Google, Amazon May Face New Hurdle In U.K. ]

Because she is not a hereditary, Peer Lane Fox was able to choose her own title -- hence 'of Soho,' a reference to the media- and tech-friendly central London district where she enjoyed her biggest business success at the start of the millennium running one of Britain's best-known websites.

Lane Fox has been tweeting (@Marthalanefox) about her big news with some understandable pride all day, even posting her official letter online.

Lane Fox is a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman who, as co-founder in 1998 of the London-based Internet travel and leisure business Lastminute.com, was one of the pioneers of e-commerce in the United Kingdom. Lastminute.com was the only company in the U.K. to go from online startup to IPO in 2000, and the company still claims to be Europe's largest travel and leisure website.

Since then, Lane Fox has continued her involvement in startups, co-founding karaoke business LuckyVoice in 2004 and chairing MakieLab, a networked toy company. Recently, though, she has increasingly gravitated to charitable and digital activism. Currently, she is founder and chair of Go On UK, a cross-sector non-profit focused on addressing the ongoing U.K. digital divide.

Since 2009 she has also served as the British government's nominated 'digital champion' by recommending greater use of digital media in government. This has led to a senior post as a non-executive director of the Efficiency and Reform Board inside the administration's Cabinet Office and the Government Digital Service, the part of central government that's focused on making services "digital by default."

Her appointment was made by a non-statutory advisory body set up by the Prime Minister to make recommendations for non-party-political peerages based on "merit and ability to contribute effectively to the work of the House." The advisory group has tapped more than 60 industry and arts luminaries since 2000 -- including Lane Fox, the U.K.'s first "digital Baroness."

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party and a campaigner for sensible information policy, will present the keynote address at Black Hat Europe 2013. Black Hat Europe will take place March 12-15 at The Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam.

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