The new Manchester Digital Strategy – Creating an Inclusive, Sustainable and Resilient Smart City aims to set out a new vision and commitment for using digital technologies to enable a smart city. This is a working title and part of the next phase of the consultation process includes asking for suggestions for the wording for this headline.
This is a strategy for the city as a whole, as well as providing a strategic framework for the City Council’s own digital transformation. It is based on four key elements which provide the foundation for the Strategy:
- Smart people: ensuring that everyone can gain and sustain the skills, aspirations and confidence to fully participate in the digital world; providing the basis for Manchester becoming an inclusive, diverse, successful and ethical smart city
- Digital places: digital neighbourhoods providing access, connectivity and support for all residents and businesses and digitally enabling enhanced health and wellbeing
- Future prosperity: enabling the digital economy and ecosystem to grow, continue to attract new digital businesses and sectors and support a resilient and inclusive economy
- Sustainable resilience: using digital imaginatively for innovation to meet zero carbon goals and to create open inclusive connectivity with enhanced digital infrastructure as a utility not just a commodity
Manchester has a very strong and resilient digital sector and ecosystem and is acknowledged as “the UK’s second technology city”, consistently outperforming “all cities outside of London” (The Data City, 2019). This is significant not only in terms of the scale of the sector but also in terms of its scope in covering both established and emerging technologies and providing a talent pool of digital and creative skills supporting consistent growth across all parts of the sector. The recent Tech Nation report 20 “UK Tech for a Changing Nation” demonstrates the particular strengths of certain parts of the sector in Manchester, including Service Design, eCommerce, Cyber, AI and Data Science, as well as in advanced materials. At the same time Manchester is at the core of a strong local digital ecosystem, with start-up and scale-up support networks, its own trade association with Manchester Digital, skills providers, user groups and tech meetups and events.
Manchester’s digital strengths impact on many other sectors as well, being at the forefront of innovation for traditional manufacturing, construction, retail and product and service design sectors. Manchester is also a centre for research and innovation around the idea of “Industry 4.0” especially in advanced manufacturing, robotics and automation and this is already stimulating thinking around the idea of “Industry 5.0”, with the intention to link this to ideas of a more people-centric development of industrial digitalisation.
Digitalisation continues to have a major impact in public service delivery, especially in local government, health and education, which also drives growth in the digital sector as well as demand for digital skills and the need for inclusive pathways into new employment and training opportunities for all residents and businesses. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a new and innovative digital agenda for Manchester. This needs to take account of the impact that the pandemic has had not only on all aspects of digital life and work but also on the way that digital technologies and services have started to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. This is why the digital sector has an even more important role in helping Manchester to continue to grow and thrive through a proactive approach to inclusive recovery.
The Manchester Digital Strategy aims to provide a vision of how Manchester can become an inclusive and resilient Smart City over the next five years. At the same time the strategy proposes a programme of new initiatives and projects that can help to achieve this through a Manchester Smart City Action Plan. This will enable digital inclusion and skills, smart neighbourhoods, digital innovation for business and jobs and digital resilience to support our zero carbon aspirations. In addition there is a new commitment to make digital infrastructure and connectivity more resilient so that it really can operate as an open access utility and not just as a commodity. This is a Digital Strategy which is about Manchester as a place; it is about everything in our city, including the role of digital businesses, the City Council, Universities and the many partners and stakeholders which made the city work.
The Digital Strategy aims to provide the vision and framework to realise Manchester’s ambition to be a world leading Digital City within the next decade, aligned with the Our Manchester Strategy, especially in terms of helping us to achieve key aspects of the connected city and liveable city themes by increasing digital inclusion. At a wider level it aligns with the UK Industrial Strategy in terms of the “grand challenges” set out in this strategy including those around mobility, sustainable growth, ageing population. It also aligns with the City Council’s Our Manchester Industrial Strategy and the GM Local Industrial Strategy (LIS).
The new Digital Strategy is based on the results of engagement and discussion with partners and networks across the city during the past year. The overall focus is on Manchester the place while recognising that this will also be a key enabler for Manchester City Council itself in terms of digital transformation. This work also takes into account the recommendations from a report commissioned by the City Council by ARUP providing an external overview of Manchester’s current digital policies and strategies, including the lessons to can be learnt from case studies of other cities’ Digital Strategies from across the UK and globally.
The City Council are working to ensure this work aligns with the Culture Recovery Plan and the GM Digital Blueprint. It is encouraging to see the commitment to this alignment at the city-region level, where GMCA are also committed to aligning their work with the Manchester Digital Strategy, including using a similar focus for priorities with the emphasis on “Smart People, Smart Places and Smart Prosperity”.
What do you think?
What can digital do for our economic recovery? Let the City Council know your ideas and how you and organisations and networks could help with this.
Or write to:
Work and Skills Team
Growth and Development Directorate
Manchester City Council
Town Hall Extension