The news that Salford has done a deal to install gigabit fibre to its council estates, taking action while others still talk vision, should come as no surprise to those who have had dealings with the Mayor, over the years. As a local politician he was involved in the deals which led ultimately to the regeneration of the Manchester Ship Canal docks as Salford Quays and the Media City. I enjoyed watching him, as an MP on,PITCOM study tours helping tease out the politics behind the visions of the Swedes, (in planning Stokab), the Finns, (in using technology to enable 30% cuts without crippling their welfare systems), the Germans, (in handling industry-academic relations), as well as the Californians and Canadians (in trying to ensure that technology advance benefited the whole of society). He was also active in exploiting Manchester’s long-standing relations with China, including as an early location of choice for Chinese students with a vibrant local Chinese business community.
The deal with the council estates also needs to be seen as one of a set of complementary initiatives to put Salford at the heart of developing, applying and exploiting smart technologies: including as a hub for education and training in the skills of the future, from technicians installing and supporting smart systems, through practitioners designing and securing applications to development and research staff. Thus putting fibre into the council estates not only includes the residents in the world, (and jobs), of Media City, it also enables the estates to become test beds for the affordable and socially inclusive telemedicine and telecare that we need so urgently in order to cater for an aging population (with further job opportunities at all levels).
Hence my hope that the London Mayoral candidates will show similar vision. It is no longer a case of matching Singapore or Hong Kong. It is a case of matching Salford.