Sarah Brown on Ada Lovelace Day

March 24, 2010

- Sarah Brown is the wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a charity campaigner and Twitter enthusiast.  Follow her on Twitter @SarahBrown10.  The opinions expressed are her own. -

On the 8th of March, the web lit up with blogs and tweets and facebook messages to mark International Women’s Day. I joined thousands of women on London’s Millennium Bridge as part of a global effort to unite women to serve the causes of peace and development and was very pleased to discuss our shared aspirations for women with U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama in a web exclusive for Number 10.

But somehow one day doesn’t seem enough to reflect on what women have achieved, and on how far we still have to travel along the road to equality. So we have extended International Women’s Day to a whole month of focus on gender at Downing Street and today I’m blogging for Reuters in honour of Ada Lovelace Day.

You might not have heard of Ada – but you wouldn’t be reading this without her. Everybody knows about the fathers of computing – people like Charles Babbage and Alan Turing – but it’s time to celebrate the mothers too.

Ada Lovelace was one of the first ever computer programmers and Ada Lovelace Day (tagged as #ALD10 on Twitter) is our chance to draw attention both to what she achieved, and to the women who stand on her shoulders today.

I have been thrilled to discover a full length portrait of Ada hanging in No 10 and was very pleased to help host more than 100 of Britain’s most inspirational women at a reception last week with her gazing down upon us.

One of our guests was Martha Lane Fox, the government’s Digital Inclusion Champion, who is doing so much to close Britain’s digital divide. She argues that access to information is a fundamental question of social justice – that when the ‘have nots’ also become ‘don’t knows’ then we further entrench unfair disadvantages.

She is also the person who introduced me to Twitter, where I have been tweeting as @SarahBrown10 for exactly a year now. It’s been a way of sharing information about the charities and campaigns I’m involved in – things like Women’s Aid, Piggy Bank Kids, Wellbeing of Women and First Women Awards. But the cause I tweet about the most is probably the Million Mums Campaign to stop the needless deaths of women in pregnancy and childbirth.

Just recently, I’ve become a social media envoy on malaria. You can follow our tweets with the tag #socialmediaenvoy because there is such a strong link between this disease and the number of mums and babies the world is losing every single day.

I was proud to join a group including friends @biz, @CoryBooker and wonder woman @ariannahuff. But Twitter isn’t the only way women are reshaping the world online.

I’ve loved being a lurker on Mumsnet and Netmums and seeing how communities of businesswomen support each other through sites like MumsClub and Precious Online.

Ada Lovelace could never have dreamt of all the ways that women interact, argue, buy, sell, coordinate, share and dream online. But we are all her daughters and today I’m proud to blog in memory of a woman who has changed my world.


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