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Manchester City Council plans to launch a four-year digital strategy to serve as the backbone of the city’s transformation.
The aim is for digital to play an increasingly important part in Manchester’s future, with a focus on smarter use and technology to ensure the city is resilient and sustainable, as well as offering new opportunities for businesses, residents and the city council itself.
The city council sees digital technology as key to Manchester’s success as it continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and deal with the current economic climate.
Commenting on the plans for the strategy, councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, executive member for finance and resources, said it’s “incredibly important” that the city’s digital offering “keeps pace with the changing world”.
“In Manchester we want to be a forward-facing city, and make it easy and accessible for people to engage digitally with us and access our services,” said Akbar.
“It is also important that as we continue through an incredibly difficult economic period, the council adapts its services to be more efficient and to get more from ultimately fewer resources.”
The strategy will be “cloud first” and “digital first”, aiming to do more with less resources, as well as continuing to tackle the climate emergency and deliver social value.
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Staff in the city council will also be going through an upskilling plan to ensure they have the skills to deliver on the strategy and incorporate digital services into Manchester’s neighbourhoods and businesses.
The council will also prioritise the use of data to improve access to information and services delivered to residents.
Councillor Greg Stanton, deputy executive member for finance and resources and lead for ICT and digital, said digital will continue to play a huge part in the future growth of Manchester. “Not only is it essential in terms of our future economy and job creation, but it will also allow us, as a council, to provide better and more efficient services to our residents through our digital front door,” he said.
“We will also be focused on digital inclusivity and ensuring no one is left behind – this is about making technology and council services more accessible,” said Stanton. “Our progressive ambitions will not only allow us to be better and more secure as a council, but by moving towards smarter technologies such as cloud-based systems we will also meet our ambitions to become a zero-carbon city.”
Digital inclusion drive
In May 2021, Manchester mayor Andy Burnham launched a digital inclusion drive, aiming to tackle digital exclusion in the city after Ofcom figures showed up to 1.2 million residents may be digitally excluded. The network focuses on ensuring that target groups, such as the under-25s, the over-75s and disabled people, have the skills, equipment and connectivity to get online.
In August 2022, London innovation hub Plexal launched a cyber security accelerator in Greater Manchester. The accelerator is designed to support the growth of early stage startups throughout the North West.
Greater Manchester, which was highlighted in a government levelling up whitepaper as being a key region for further investment and economic growth, is already home to several tech unicorns (companies valued at more than $1bn), as well as UK signal intelligence agency GCHQ.