A Mayoral Manifesto for the Digital Economy
Tech in London is booming. The digital economy has seen growth from around 250 tech firms in 2010 at the launch of the Tech City initiative, to more than 5000 today. London’s Tech City has been called the fastest-growing technology cluster in the world and London is certainly Europe’s largest tech hub. However, with predictions of an explosion in digital job vacancies over the next two years, and an ever growing need for access to ultra-fast broadband, there are signs of stress in the infrastructure which supports the sector’s growth.
In September 2015, the London Assembly Economy Committee visited Tech City to explore the barriers to inclusive growth facing London’s Digital Economy.
The Committee uncovered a number of issues which require urgent attention from the current Mayor, and his successor, if London is to maintain growth in its digital economy:
- 46% of leading tech figures believe the biggest challenge facing the tech sector is a shortage of skilled workers. The UK economy will need 745,000 additional digital skilled workers in the next two years.
- Despite this need, young Londoners and women, in particular, struggle to take advantage of the jobs available.
- London’s economy hinges on fast and reliable broadband, but superfast coverage for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) lags behind average coverage in urban areas (67% compared to 83%).
The digital report, ‘A Mayoral Manifesto for the Digital Economy’ calls for clear action by the Mayor, and his successor. The report makes a number of recommendations, including:
- The Mayor and the London Enterprise Panel (LEP) should design an apprenticeship, which is fit for the digital sector. It should be industry-led, combine technical and workplace skills and be better promoted in schools.
- The Mayor and the LEP should support SMEs, which make up 98% of the sector’s businesses, to take on apprentices.
- The Mayor should lobby government to introduce the installation of super-fast broadband connectivity, as a condition of planning consent for new developments.