TechCity - one of the Coalition’s central technology initiatives – has come under fire from the chief executive of BT’s Openreach business.
Tech City is a cluster of over 700 digital companies based in Shoreditch in East London, which has attracted the attention of the likes of Huddle and Google. Prime Minister David Cameron hopes that the cluster will develop into something akin to a UK version of Silicon Valley.
But Olivia Garfield, Yorkshire-born and bred chief executive of BT Openreach reckons that the government should be focusing on creating a more entrepreneurial ‘work wherever you are’ national strategy would be better than a cluster approach that focuses on London.
“I’m not sure you need a set location,” Garfield told The Yorkshire Post. “You can’t have such a reliance on cities. You have to create something which is not about a hub. I would contest that if you create something where you have to go, it limits how many people you can ever have showing up somewhere.
“You have to create a sense that it is more entrepreneurial; it is more ‘work wherever you are’ because then we can use bright people in the Orkneys as easy as we can use bright people down in Cornwall. If you can create that sense, it is going to be the quickest recovery... you could share it across the UK.”
She added: “I’m not sure creating a tech centre is culturally creating a next generation of youth that have technology at the heart of their lives.”
But Garfield does back the ambition stated by the government to make the UK the broadband capital of Europe. “The Government’s ambition is spot on. It wants the UK to be the most connected society in Europe. Its ambition is to try and create an impetus that allows the UK to recover from recession quicker,” she said, adding: “It’s got to work out the best way of doing it. We would suggest the best way is to get everyone connected to make everyone use it seamlessly in their entire life.”