The tech revolution must be shaped for the benefit of everyone

12 March 2018

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will use a major keynote speech to call on cities and governments around the world to do much more to harness the great opportunities of the current tech revolution as well as to mitigate against the growing and significant risks.


Sadiq will make the wide-ranging speech - covering social media, the shared economy and the consequences of increased automation - at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference in Texas on Monday 12 March.


He will say that politicians and governments have been too passive – ‘sitting on their hands’ - while the tech revolution has happened around them.


He will argue that more must be done not only to ensure we use new technology and innovation to the benefit of everyone in society, but how we prevent employment rights being by-passed, more people feeling left behind by the changing nature of our economies and more division within our communities.


Sadiq will say that some tech companies, including social media platforms and peer-to-peer companies, must take more responsibility for the way they are impacting the world and that no business or industry should ever consider itself above local rules, or laws.


The Mayor will also argue that ‘evolving economies must mean evolving regulation’ – and that it’s up to politicians to fix things when the regulation is clearly not working or out-of-date.


On criticising how politicians and governments have been passive while the tech revolution has happened around them, Sadiq is expected to say:


“The onus for change should not just be on tech companies and innovators.  One of the biggest problems over the last few years is that politicians and governments have just been passive – sitting on their hands - while the tech revolution has happened around them.


“There’s been a failure to ensure that our economies and our regulatory structures are prepared and relevant.  It must ultimately fall to government – working with tech businesses and leaders - to ensure that this revolution is not detrimental to our long-term progress.


“There’s been a dereliction of duty on the part of politicians and policymakers to ensure that the rapid growth in technology is utilised and steered in a direction that benefits us all.


On new platforms being used to deepen divisions within our communities and the need for social media companies to take more responsibility, Sadiq is expected to read out some of the racist, abusive and illegal Tweets that he has received since becoming Mayor and say:


“Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have brought huge benefits to society. They’ve made it easier for us to stay in touch with those we love, meet like-minded people and have easier access to information we want.


“But – understandably - there are growing concerns about the way some of the biggest companies on the planet are impacting our lives and the overall wellbeing of our societies. In some cases, these new platforms have been used to exacerbate, fuel and deepen the divisions within our communities.


“We’ve already seen:


·       Evidence of elections and referendums being influenced.


·       A rise in online abuse, misogyny and religious hatred.


·       Fake news spreading misinformation.


·       Algorithms blinkering us from different points of view and pushing people to extremes.


·       And terrorists and far-right groups using social media to not only conspire, but to radicalise and brainwash others.


“All of this is dividing and polarising us, rather than uniting us. I know this all too well from personal experience.


“We simply must do more to protect people online. Social media platforms already have a legal obligation to remove content that breaks local laws. But this is not always happening, or happening quickly enough.


“Facebook, Twitter and other platforms are finally starting to react to the criticisms and are developing technology to make sure the reporting process becomes quicker and more effective. I welcome this. But - with the skills and resources these companies have at their disposal - I believe it’s possible to go further and faster.


“What we need to see is a stronger duty of care so that social media platforms can live up to their promise to be places that connect, unify and democratise the sharing of information – and be places where everyone feels welcome and valued.


“If this doesn’t happen, then more countries will start to follow or go further than what Germany has done. The German government have changed the law so that social media companies face hefty fines if they fail to quickly remove hate speech, fake news and illegal material.”


On the risks and opportunities of the sharing economy, Sadiq is expected to say:


“At its best, the sharing economy can make it easier for people to sell their skills, their time, and even their home, in a way that suits them, at a fair price.  But at its worst, it can drive down pay, workers’ rights and safety standards.


“If the sharing economy is real, it should be as liberating for the worker or supplier as it is for the consumer.  Yes - innovative new companies are providing fantastic services to people around the world, and have created tens of thousands of new jobs in the process.


“But without prudent regulation and oversight, this new way of doing business risks being used as cover to break-up decades of established and hard-fought rights.  We can’t confuse matters by thinking that because a business is smart, disruptive, popular even - and has a really neat app – it somehow has a right to have a different regulatory status to its competitors.”


On the need for the evolution of regulation, Sadiq is expected to say:


“Ultimately - there must be greater responsibility taken by some tech companies for the impact they’re having on the world.  And, crucially, no business or industry should ever consider itself above the local rules, or laws set by democratic processes.


“In London, we’ve been clear with Uber and other companies - that everyone - no matter how big or small - must play by the rules.  No exceptions.


“Our economies have always needed new regulations in place to meet the needs of workers and consumers when the environment changes.  Evolving economies must mean evolving regulation. And today is no different.


“Rather than blaming companies for innovating ahead of regulation, politicians must fix things when the regulation is out-of-date.  The question now for governments - or traditional sectors - should not be how we slow down innovation in its tracks – because we can’t.  And we shouldn’t.  It should be how we mitigate against the potentially negative impacts of disruption.  And - more than that – how we can harness the very same technologies to drive up standards and to create more just and equal societies.”


On how cities like London can lead the way in ensuring the tech revolution benefits everyone, Sadiq is expected to say:


“In this fast-paced change, city government can cope better with digital disruption, turning technological upheavals to our advantage.  This is my ambition as the Mayor of London – and I encourage other Mayors and great cities to join me in this mission.


“In London, we’re harnessing the power of new technology to transform lives.


“We’re aiming to make London a global byword for smart cities - with data, connectivity and innovation supporting our infrastructure and services.


“We’re getting much more involved in using tech to provide public services to the citizens we represent.


“We’re utilising data to transform the way public services are delivered, making them more accessible, efficient and responsive.


“We’re looking at London’s strengths in AI and automation, finding the best ways to take advantage of the opportunities it could bring whilst also investing in education to ensure Londoners have the digital skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.


“We’ve set up an online hate crime hub – the first of its kind in Europe - to work with social media companies.


“And – crucially – we’re breaking down the barriers that still exist for girls and women to reach their potential – not only in the tech sector, but in every part of our society.”


On gender equality in the tech sector, Sadiq is expected to say:


“2018 is a pivotal year for London as we mark the centenary of women having the right to vote in the UK.


“And, as a proud feminist, I’ve launched a campaign called “Behind Every Great City”.


“And my message today to other cities - and to global tech leaders - is that, collectively, we must do more to champion greater inclusivity within in the tech community.


“It’s not only the right thing to do, evidence shows that it’s good for business too.”

Notes to editors


  • The Mayor is in America  to bang the drum for London and to reinforce the strong relationship and positive tech and creative business collaboration between America and London.


  • SXSW is an annual event, known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries.


  • During his 48-hour visit, Sadiq will also attend a meeting of the US Conference of Mayors attended by 30-40 US Mayors from cities of varying sizes and host a series of bilateral meetings with political and business leaders.


  • He will also attend a business reception hosted by his promotional agency London & Partners and address tech leaders from the US and London as he calls for them to support his #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign which celebrates the achievements of women and also calls for action to be taken to address gender equality.


  • Sadiq will be the first British politician to deliver a keynote speech at SXSW.


  • At the London and Partners event on Sunday evening, Sadiq will highlight the role for cities such as London, Austin and San Francisco to work together in championing greater inclusivity in the tech community and workplace. Sadiq will promote closer city-to-city tech partnerships between London and Austin and call on other US cities to join him in shining a spotlight on the positive examples of inclusivity, fairness and equality in the tech sector.


  • He will also make the case for global cities to promote a more inclusive tech economy, saying that a fairer city can be a more productive and prosperous city. He will highlight the advantages for businesses that have more diverse leadership teams and workforces. According to a recent global study published by consultancy firm, McKinsey, diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams by 35% while a similar study by EY revealed that firms that have increased female leadership representation to 30% have experienced a 15% increase in revenue.


  • At the event Sadiq will be joined by tech entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers from the US and London including: London’s first Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, Austin’s Chief Innovation Officer, Kerry O’Connor and Shamina Singh, President, Mastercard Centre for Inclusive Growth.