User-designed services and city-wide WiFi – London mayor’s plan to create the world’s smartest city

Sadiq Khan publishes smart-city strategy for the capital

London mayor Sadiq Khan has unveiled his plan to make London the world’s smartest city.

Published this week, the Smarter London Together strategy lays out five key “missions” that are aimed at making Khan’s vision a reality. These are:

More user-designed services
In this area, the plan outlines that “the mayor will champion the adoption of common standards and design principles in public services”.  The plan also lays out London’s intention to promote digital inclusion and diversity in the tech industry, as well as looking at ways to better engage citizens and communities. 

This mission will also see the launch of a Civic Innovation Challenge. This initiative will pair “start-ups with leading corporates and public organisations to solve some of London’s most pressing problems”. The first challenges on the agenda will be reducing inequality, preventing climate change, and supporting London’s ageing population.

Strike a new deal for city data
This mission will see Khan establish a London Office for Data Analytics. The office will help public-services providers work together on data-led initiatives, and “will develop, commission and implement projects that address public services and urban challenges which are best tackled together”. Increasing the accountability of those who use data and strengthening public trust is another of the mayor’s objectives, as is cultivating an “an open ecosystem” of stakeholders.

Khan also plans to establish a citywide strategy for cybersecurity.

World-class connectivity and smarter streets
The London mayor intends to establish a Connected London programme designed to eradicate connectivity blackspots and use public property to help promote the rollout of full-fibre internet. Khan and his team will also look at how planning powers could be brought to bear in the drive to deliver full-fibre broadband and 5G mobile connectivity.

The mayor will also “explore a London-wide WiFi service focused on improving flexible working in the public sector”, as well as promoting the implementation of smart-city infrastructure.

Enhance digital capability and skills
As part of this mission, authorities in the capital will work with the Government Digital Service, the Local Government Association, and the NHS to share information and best practice relating to digital leadership.

The mayor will also invest in building “basic digital skills” among Londoners who need them, as well as reviewing standards in digital apprenticeships. Partner organisations will be tasked with helping teach coding skills to young people, while cultural institutions will be called on to “promote greater understanding of Londoners about the smart technologies and data shaping their lives”.

Improve citywide collaboration 
The London Office of Technology and Innovation is to be established with a remit “to support collaboration on the design, standardisation and scaling of digital services and smart technology in public services”. Khan also pledged to help foster innovation in the healthcare sector, collaborate more with other cities, and examine how best to implement “new tech partnerships and business models”.

Khan, said: “We need a step-change in how we harness innovation for the benefit of all Londoners. Many of London’s advances in the application of data and smart technologies are globally recognised. We have clearly taken great steps but I want us to do even more to meet the needs of Londoners.”

He added: “As one of the world’s leading technology hubs, we need to be bold and think big, to experiment and try things out that have not been done elsewhere. I see London’s future as a global ‘test-bed city’ for civic innovation, where the best ideas are developed, amplified and scaled. To solve the biggest problems our great city faces, I am calling for an ever-more collaborative approach than ever. We need our public services, major universities, and technology community to mobilise their resources in new ways and partner with us to make London a fairer and more prosperous place.”

To help make good on his plan to make the capital the world’s smartest city, Khan last year recruited Camden councillor Theo Blackwell as London’s first chief digital officer. Blackwell said that the Smarter London Together strategy represents the laying of the “foundations for the future”.

“Digital connectivity is now rightly seen by Londoners as important as their other utilities,” he said. “We will properly mobilise the city’s resources to end not-spots, and propose planning powers to ensure new developments are connected. We will put peoples’ priorities first through the mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge to mobilise the best in the tech sector to help solve urban problems.”

Blackwell added: “We will strike a new deal with citizens on use of their data so when it is appropriate to share data, it is done in a trusted, safe way and for public benefit. Tech jobs should open for Londoners and we will invest in skills and support efforts to make the tech sector more diverse. All of this will succeed only through collaboration and partnership, which we are committed to. We call on the tech community in all its forms across London to join us in this challenge.”

Sam Trendall

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