In 2017, Sadiq Khan – Mayor of London – announced his ambition for London to be the world’s leading smart city. London’s first Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, will lead the ‘Smart London plan‘ to realise this goal. Blackwell launched the plan last month, with five key missions and over 20 initiatives outlined.
Putting citizen’s needs first is the focus of this mission. London’s diversity will be considered when developing new digital services for the city. For example, digital skills vary across London, often linked to age. Negative effects of poor digital skills include:
To combat this, digital inclusion will be a big focus of this mission.
It has been estimated that by 2020, the data sector will create around £322bn of economic value to the UK. To continue this growth, the plan proposes a citywide approach to how we treat data. This includes an infrastructure developed in collaboration with the capital’s partners. Khan will establish the London Office for Data Analytics (LODA) programme, which aims to aid standard identification of the names and footprints of London’s buildings. Furthermore, to better protect the capital’s citizens, a new cybersecurity strategy will be developed.
The ‘Connected London’ programme aims to tackle the city’s ‘notspots’ (areas of poor internet provision) and prepare for the rollout of 5G. Khan has already started working with TfL to bring mobile coverage to London Underground. There are also plans to link 50 public buildings to the fibre network on the Tube. This will provide extra local connectivity to the surrounding area. GovWifi is being developed as a unified citywide network to improve the availability of public Wi-Fi.
As London continues to transition into a smart city, the workforce required to support this needs to develop new skillsets. Primarily, these will revolve around:
Better digital leadership is needed to aid this. The government is collaborating with the Government Digital Service to improve training availability. More investment is also being made into young talent, ensuring digital skills are being developed throughout education.
New partnerships will be formed with the tech sector to further improve how the city’s public services work together. Khan proposes a new London Office of Technology & Innovation. ‘Keystone issues’ holding back the development of better public services for citizens will be targeted. The clear focus for this mission is openness. This applies to London’s boroughs as well as other cities, both in the UK and globally.