Yesterday, Prince Charles asked me if older people needed help to use the internet and I asked him if he was angling for a course. He laughed and said something amusing about hacking.
I was at Buckingham Palace to receive my OBE medal. Last June I was thrilled to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to digital inclusion, and yesterday I attended my investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace to receive the award from Prince Charles.
It’s no secret that I feel very strongly about digital inclusion and about ensuring that in this 21st century world – where digital underpins everything – no one is left behind. That’s what I said to Charles too by the way. It feels great to receive such a high-profile award for something that I feel so passionately about and that I just ‘do’ as part of my day-to-day working life. They announced it out loud: “Services to digital inclusion.” I really can’t believe it.
Getting to this stage has been a long and fulfilling journey. I’ve dedicated my life to tackling digital exclusion for over thirty years. From providing online resources for children and schools in the 80s, working in online education in Australia and Japan, to helping to set up learndirect in 1999. Setting up Tinder Foundation and the continued development of the UK online centres network have certainly been career highlights for me. Since 2011 Tinder Foundation has grown from a small staff-owned social enterprise to a staff-led charity with a team of almost 50 – and we’re still growing.
I know it sounds cliched to say I couldn’t have done it without the many great people who have been on this journey with me, but it’s true. The whole team at Tinder Foundation is so passionate about digital, they are great people to work with and it is our team effort that deliver the Tinder Foundation successes. And, of course, the UK online centres network who help people every day to make their lives better with digital.
I was at a centre in Dalston just this week, on Tuesday – a million miles in life experiences from Buckingham Palace, but only 5 miles geographically. In Dalston, I was introducing partners from HMRC to local people who are struggling with digital and who are struggling with life, including Keith – 64 and still hoping to find a job. I was as happy to meet Keith on Tuesday as I was to meet Prince Charles yesterday. All part of life’s rich tapestry and I’m so lucky to see it all.
I’ve always believed that everyone is equal. Whether it’s me, my team, the learners in our network, or ministers in government. My work to-date – growing organisations and helping others – embodies this belief. Me and the Tinder Foundation team are absolutely committed to having a better world where everyone benefits through digital. If we can help people have more aspirations and understand their worth, then we’ve done our job well.
I couldn’t have achieved this honour without the Tinder Foundation team, our board, our massive network of community partners across the UK, and every single person who has got online and gained digital skills since we started.
I wish I had a slice of cake for all of you. Thank you to everyone sending me congratulations on Twitter – I really appreciate your support. And a big thank you to everyone who has helped me over the years. This award isn’t just for me; it’s for all of you.