Going digital in Greater Manchester - with Salford in the lead

13 Dec 2017 |Written by Adam Micklethwaite

I went to the GM Digital and Text Summit 2 last week. Hosted by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, the purpose was to hear back from a range of working groups and start to put together an overarching digital strategy for the GM city region.

It was great to see such a strong level of passion for digital transformation, from digital skills to infrastructure, and a deep commitment to partnership and collaboration to make it work. I was struck by how clearly people are at the centre of GM's digital journey: nobody can be left behind. And it was equally good to see at the centre of it all GM's desire to listen; to act; to do things its own way. Andy Burnham is a really effective figurehead for this approach.

As a keynote, we heard about the amazing experience of Estonia in creating a digitally inclusive society and infrastructure. Clearly, the scale and challenge are different, but great to see what bold decision-making and innovation can accomplish.

The summit then focused on the 'crowdsourced' proposals coming forward from a range of working groups set up at the first GM Digital Summit earlier in the year. Highlights included the launch of Bridge GM, an app connecting young people to careers in tech, a partnership with the Digital Catapult, and a commitment to build a future-proof connected infrastructure.

One of the working groups focused on digital inclusion, and I was pleased to be invited to present to this group on our brilliant new programme with Salford City Council, and on the wider picture on digital exclusion nationally and in GM.

The panel shouted out the essential work of community organisations and charities everywhere in engaging those excluded from the digital world. Building on this, panel member Debbie Brown, Director of Service Reform and Development at Salford and SRO of our new programme, talked about how the Council is leading the way in working directly with hyperlocal organisations to engage the city's most vulnerable residents. From our perspective, it's the leading example of a council taking a bold decision and investing directly in digital inclusion as part of its strategy, recognising its fundamental importance for the future economy and for social justice.

There is lots of interest in the programme from other councils across Greater Manchester, and from the GM Combined Authority, and we're looking forward to sharing our experience and helping GM as a whole develop an approach to digital inclusion that is transformational. It's also brilliant that our great partners Lloyds Banking Group, Google and TalkTalk will be supporting in Salford, building on their existing deep commitment to supporting the GM economy and its people.

Debbie also penned Quote Of The Day - against some tough competition as there were many memorable ideas and phrases. She said:

"Let's just do it. Let's create that social movement for change."

So bold decision-making was the theme of the day, closely followed by putting people at the centre of digital transformation. Greater Manchester can stride ahead into the digital world and bring all its citizens on the journey. And I'm delighted that working with Salford Council, we're in the vanguard at this exciting time.

The Digital You programme will launch at MediaCity on 11 January.