Digital technology has the potential to solve some of our most complex economic and societal challenges. From driverless cars being guided to available parking spaces, to buildings that intelligently manage their own energy consumption, and from smart street lighting to bins that report when they need emptying. The potential benefits to our environment and our lifestyle are enormous.
But to realise those opportunities, we have to create the right conditions for people to prosper from them. If we get it right, we can deploy technological innovation to unlock human potential not only in Oxfordshire, but right across the country.
If we fail to grasp these opportunities, the negatives are stark. Constrained by poor connectivity, new businesses will continue to move to cities as they expand, taking job opportunities with them. More of us will then need to commute – clogging our roads and damaging our environment. The current rural/urban divide will be exacerbated, isolating our rural communities. Our labour market will increasingly be defined by those who do and do not have the skills required to work in an increasingly digitised world.
To make sure we then grasp the opportunities improved digital connectivity can bring, I will be:
- Encouraging local employers and our local authorities to use Apprenticeship Levy funds for training to develop or refresh digital skills, particularly for people from underprivileged backgrounds.
- Lobbying our councils to tackle the barriers to delivering improved connectivity. One way of doing this would be to conduct an audit of how easy it is to access public sector sites and street furniture like manholes and lamp-posts; places and objects that can be made available for network nodes – which can then enable ‘Internet of Things’ connectivity.
- Asking our local authorities to conduct a review of unused or underutilised public sector buildings to identify spaces that can be converted into low-cost offices for digital start-ups, and ensuring that these spaces can benefit from the latest digital infrastructure.
- Lobby the national government to change planning law, so that any new build homes come with broadband that meets the needs of modern family life.
How can you help?
If you support my digital agenda, please keep checking back for my new petition. Your support helps me show policy makers how important these issues are and why we need to take action now.