William Eichler 26 April 2017

Metro mayors should place digital at ‘the heart’ of their plans

The new metro mayors should put digital devolution at the ‘heart of their plans’, tech industry campaigners say.

A new report published yesterday by techUK, a tech industry pressure group, urged the mayors to adopt digital technologies to ‘deliver real change and better outcomes’ for their cities.

‘Digital is instinctively designed to assist collaboration and, by putting digital at the forefront of city region plans, mayors can re-shape and integrate services, creating better places to live and drive regional growth,’ said the report summary.

The new mayors, who are part of the Government’s devolution deals with six combined authorities, will be elected in the upcoming polls on May 4th.

TechUK’s report recommended each mayor should appoint a chief digital and innovation champion (CDIC) who would report directly to the mayor and a senior officer of the combined authority.

It also advised an Innovation Unit be set-up to work with the CDIC across the city region to foster new partnerships and offer practical support to test new ideas and embed digital across the place.

The report also urged the mayors to open up data and make decisions based on city wide data. It said there should be an audit of local data assets and city wide data with the aim of creating a city region datastore.

The mayors should also work closely with their respective communities to tackle digital exclusion and set up Digital Skills Task Forces to put in place the necessary provisions to meet the needs of the community and employers.

‘Digital devolution presents one of the biggest opportunities to do things differently, break down the traditional barriers to service delivery to drive improved outcomes for all,’ said Georgina Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK.

‘The mayors, with their direct and convening powers, must use their new and unique position to accelerate the pace of transformation, working closely with public sector, the community and industry to deliver better outcomes for all citizens by creating truly joined-up services and places where citizens want to live and thrive.’

‘We are looking forward to working with the mayors to redefine what a 21st century city region can be,’ she added.

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