Recently elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, the former Labour MP Andy Burnham, has hit the ground running – with the almost immediate publication of plans to make his part of the North West a global ‘Smart City’.
Flagging up a promised landmark July summit to “stake out” Greater Manchester’s “claim” to be the UK’s tech leader and will “set out a bold programme of skills and infrastructure development”, he promised yesterday.
Burnham and his team say they plan to bring together Greater Manchester’s “tech trailblazers and local people” to shape a vision for a genuinely smart city region, where technology is used as a vital part of the solution to the biggest issues we face in society.
He’s also tapped the leader of Rochdale Council, Councillor Richard Farnell, will be the portfolio lead for the new so-say ‘Digital City Region’ in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority cabinet.
“I want Greater Manchester to be a digital city with a difference – one with a bold digital economy which actively encourages businesses to invest and grow, and also one where technology is used to deliver positive change, from connecting young people with opportunities, to tackling social problems such as homelessness. This bold vision places the needs of people firmly at the heart of technological innovation.
“We’re already ahead of the game on this. Right here in Greater Manchester we are on the digital frontier with some of the most cutting-edge tech firms in the world. This gives us a remarkable opportunity to take that expertise and innovation, and work with local people to create a smart digital future which has a unique Greater Manchester stamp.
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“We want to fuse technological advancement with culture, ethics, communities and places to build a world which is connected, creative and cooperative, and a modern and prosperous Greater Manchester where no-one is left behind.
“I don’t want Greater Manchester to be just a smart city – I want it to be the smartest city.”
The Smart City project echoes London’s similar and early digital ambitions, but also does align with his stated role.
Burnham’s role is to be “accountable to and representing the people of” all 10 boroughs in Greater Manchester, overseeing a local economy larger than that of Wales and which has one of the largest electoral mandates in the UK.
He is also tasked to help steer the work of Greater Manchester’s Combined Authority on issues such as the economy, transport, police and fire services.