I made Prince Charles laugh yesterday

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.

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Me and my OBE!

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.


Me and my mum outside Buckingham Palace

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.


The team and the board celebrating our fourth birthday at the AGM, December 2015

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.


My husband made me a delicious OBE Cake. It was lovely!

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. 

Thank you.

I’m delighted and determined

I’m thrilled, shocked, overwhelmed…the list goes on…as today it was announced in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List that I have been awarded an OBE.

But most importantly I’m proud. I’m proud of the thousands of people this award also belongs to, who have all contributed to eradicating the digital inequalities in our country so that millions of people can live a better life.

I wish I could name every single person: the 5,000 hyperlocal partners in the UK online centres network, whose dedication often humbles me; the hard-working and happy 46-strong team at Tinder Foundation; the amazing Jim Knight (Tinder Foundation’s Chair) and all our committed Board who have provided so much friendship, guidance and support; and of course my family and friends.

This award really does belong to everyone who has worked tirelessly to reduce the inequalities in our country by helping others to benefit as part of our digital society. We’ve all done something to make a difference, and I know we’ll keep on going because it matters more than ever.

Now that it’s sinking in, this award has given me a push to do even more because 9.5 million (the number of adults in the UK who don’t or can’t use the internet) isn’t a figure I’m happy – or proud about – at all. In fact I hate it, and I want to keep reducing that figure until I can write on here one day that we have achieved a truly digital nation.

I’m going to take the weekend off to keep feeling happy and feeling proud of my part in this story. But on Monday I will be back, with ever more determination to work with anyone who wants to help to end digital inequality once and forever.