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Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Cisco collaborate for inclusive, digital region

Networking tech giant and local council unveil region-wide, secure, digital infrastructure to underpin transformation of public services in social innovation programme designed to boost digital skills, innovation with SMEs and access to services

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has announced a strategic partnership with Cisco, looking to enable the transformation of public services with a programme of social value initiatives to support digital inclusion and address the digital divide across the region.

Cisco noted that Greater Manchester’s economy has grown twice as fast as London’s since 2014, and Manchester was recently named the fastest-growing city in Europe for attracting significant tech investment and cutting-edge startups. The city is also home to the largest digital and creative industries sector outside of London, generating £5bn of economic activity and creating high-value jobs for more than 86,000 people.

Much of this success has been attributed to the GMCA and its plans to transform the region into one of the most digitally connected and technologically advanced in Europe. Moreover, Cisco adds that the acceleration of digital transformation, catalysed by the pandemic, has exponentially increased the reliance on the internet and the wider adoption of online services across the public and private sectors.

According to new CEBR research commissioned by Cisco, improved connectivity, faster internet speeds and wider technology adoption could add £4.8bn in productivity gains to the Greater Manchester economy by 2030. The same report said that improving employability of the digitally excluded could add £203m to the economy of the North West in the next eight years, while increased earnings driven by wider digital skills adoption could add an additional £1.8bn to the local economy.

With Cisco and a consortium of partners, GMCA will aim to enable the transformation of public services, based on a programme of social value initiatives to support digital inclusion and address the digital divide across the region. The GM One network will reach from local government, education, transportation, and fire and rescue sites, with the opportunity to expand in the future to other areas of the public sector, such as other emergency services and health. The partners hope the network will evolve the way people interact with and benefit from public services in the region.

As part of its commitment to the project, Cisco will deploy a self-monitoring, region-wide digital infrastructure to underpin public services. Working with existing infrastructure, the platform will deliver access to public sector services and stakeholders. It will aim to allow local authorities to improve information-sharing, reduce their carbon footprint and introduce more intuitive and joined-up citizen services. In doing so, the digital infrastructure will also enable support for new technology services for indoor and outdoor connectivity, such as 5G, Wi-Fi6 and Open Roaming.

To ensure all citizens have the opportunity to benefit from the digital economy, the Cisco Networking Academy will work with authorities across Greater Manchester to provide digital skills training, either to those who lack basic skills or are looking to develop them further.

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Commenting on the project, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “This is a huge achievement for Greater Manchester’s public sector, and really demonstrates the value of collaboration. Through transforming our public services, we are boosting our towns and cities, cementing our position as a world-leading, digital-city region. Ensuring our services are more efficient supports our ambition that everyone in Greater Manchester, whatever their age, location or situation, can benefit from the opportunities digital brings.”

As part of its Country Digital Acceleration programme, Cisco will also create a Social Innovation Programme to ensure that those who live, work and create in Manchester are able to utilise the digital infrastructure. The programme aims to support socially oriented startups and R&D institutions to design and deliver products and services achieving socially beneficial outcomes.

“Greater Manchester’s bold ambitions to build a fairer, more sustainable and prosperous community align very closely with Cisco’s vision for a more digitally inclusive nation,” said Adele Every, head of public sector for Cisco UK & Ireland.

“By widening access to digital skills and advancing technology, our partnership will enable the GMCA to revolutionise citizen services, while driving economic growth opportunities from which everyone can benefit and helping to realise the region’s ambition of becoming a world-leading digital innovation hub.”

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