Future of technology: London Mayoral candidates have their say

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The 2021 London Mayoral candidates have just detailed plans for the Capital’s tech sector if elected as the next Mayor of London.

The leading candidates responded to 12 policy recommendations relating to tech, put to them by leading sector stakeholders; Tech London Advocates, techUK, Centre for London, London First, Here East and Plexal.

Responding to London’s Tech Manifesto at a virtual event, the candidates said the following as highlights from their speeches:

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “Technology companies have a huge role to play, not only in helping our city bounce-back economically from this pandemic, but in helping to build a brighter and more prosperous future for all Londoners.

“That’s why, if I’m re-elected, I’ll continue to champion our tech sector, making the case for improved access to talent and standing up for a regulatory environment that supports – and encourages – enterprise and innovation.

“There’s no doubt that international promotion is more and more important, and so we’ll continue to do all we can to ensure that London stands out as an attractive option on the world stage.

“The London Office of Technology and Innovation has also enabled us to co-operate with boroughs in utilizing all the assets our city has to offer when it comes to digital innovation. And we’re exploring ways to harness public data and the innovative power of our tech companies to support digital citizenship even further. In addition to that, we’ve also got plans to expand our Civic Innovation Challenge to encompass public services, research institutions and the tech sector – bringing everyone together to make our city fairer, cleaner, and easier to get around in future.

“In the next 20 years it’s expected that 90% of jobs will require digital skills. So, it’s now more important than ever to mainstream these skills. I’m pleased to say that we’re already on the right path. With our £7m Digital Talent scheme, we’ve been able to provide many young Londoners with the digital skills that employers want. But we must now build on this progress. One of our key missions as we seek to recover from the pandemic will be ensuring that Londoners are able to access good work – something which will inevitably go hand in hand with the development of digital talent across our city.”

Shaun Bailey, Conservatives, said: “London’s recovery from COVID presents a pivotal opportunity to support and embrace a tech led, economic and social recovery, a fresh start for London.

“I will, for example, increase the funding to MedCity by 500%, which fell by half under the current Mayor since 2016. This will finance medtech startups and research to build upon the UK’s success in vaccine development over the past year.

“To additionally support job creation, I will invest in innovative green technology to support a green recovery and make London an international green tech industry leader. A green recovery from COVID has the opportunity to boost our economy, protect our environment and invigorate the workforce in more green industries.

“I will harness the kinetic energy of Londoners in high foot traffic locations around London to provide off grid green electricity for London streets and TfL stations. Pavegen tiles could be installed four abreast the length of Oxford Street. On an average weekday there are 138,000 pedestrians on Oxford Street, rising to 500,000 at peak time. That could generate more than 3,200 watts per hour, per day, which would provide electricity to Oxford Street, even during long dark winter nights.

“As Mayor of London, I will champion and invest in our tech sector to ensure that we are leaders in the field and London’s best days are ahead of it. London will become the smartest city in the world, and that’s the first step to having a fresh start for London.”

Siân Berry, Green Party, said: “The tech sector has a big role to play in building back more equally and greener in London. One example of that is the gap that has been exposed in digital access. We depend on tech and logistics more than ever to give us the essential services we need. We need to reuse, repair and redistribute digital devices to the people in London who need them. I want to set up repair centres in every high street.

“We really don’t need an airport on the site of City Airport. It’s right in the city – this could be a technology-based quarter, one with homes, new parks, new jobs and new businesses, set up to be a tech hub in the heart of London.

“I want to invest directly in people. As a Green, I’ve supported a universal basic income for a long time to replace the benefits system. We can run trials and pilots to demonstrate the benefits of this – one of these I want to run is a creative autonomy allowance, an allowance paid to younger people to cover their basic needs so they have the freedom to get involved in entrepreneurial and creative careers. At the moment, there are too many barriers to people who can’t work for free or who don’t come from families with a financial safety net.

“I’m all about building a secure future for London and I think the tech industry is absolutely integral to that. If you vote for a Green mayor, you’ll see a fairer, greener and healthier city, a healthier society and a healthier and more stable economy as well.”

Luisa Porritt, Liberal Democrats, said: “I want to see 5G and gigabit internet rolled out across our capital because that is fundamental to my vision for reinventing our high streets. I think we have a real opportunity in front of us as the high street moves away from this old fashioned retail-led model, to make them more responsive to the services local communities want and need – but we’re going to need the infrastructure to support that.

“Tech has a huge role to play in supporting a green recovery for our capital. We have an ambition to become a zero carbon city and tech is crucial for finding solutions to making that a reality. I have a vision for the future but I know I need to work with the tech sector.

“Israel is a world leader for tech innovation. I made a promise that if I became mayor, I would be leading a delegation to look at how we can build up that relationship more closely so that London and Tel Aviv are working closely together to lead the way in this area.

“Increasing digital talent is vital for protecting the tech sector. I want to introduce a London passport so that fellow Europeans working in the tech sector who have made London their home have an insurance, a physical document that proves their status to reside here in London. It will make it easier for them to stay and ensure they still feel welcome as well.”

Reaction from tech sector

Reacting to the Mayoral candidate’s speeches, Russ Shaw CBE, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, comments: “We’ve heard some interesting ideas about how the next Mayor of London can use technology to support innovation around transport, create opportunities for young people and accelerate the growth of tech companies.”

However, I’m not convinced that any of the candidates have fully grasped the scale of what London’s tech sector has achieved and the vision it deserves. This is a globally significant tech hub with enormous potential to drive job creation, fuel the city’s economic recovery and consolidate London’s position globally as a world-leading tech hub.”

“The next Mayor needs to fully immerse herself or himself in the tech landscape, relentlessly attract investors to the city’s tech companies and take real action to address problems around diversity and inclusion. Tech must be a strategic priority for the future of the capital and requires bold and visionary leadership in order to secure London’s tech leadership on the global stage.”

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