Andy Street Mayor of the West Midlands
Digital connectivity is going to be vital to our economic bounce back. It is the golden thread that links all of our industries – Advanced manufacturing, automotive, life sciences, professional services, construction, low carbon, transport, healthcare, public services - all are being transformed by the power of digital technologies. Ensuring all our citizens are equipped to play a full part in, and benefit from this transformation is a shared endeavour. In my time at John Lewis, I witnessed the power of the digital revolution, taking our products online and allowing us to compete with growing digital commerce companies like Amazon. I know how important it is that we innovate to keep up with the needs of our time.
That is why I am delighted to be introducing this comprehensive refresh of our regional digital strategy. The document is forward looking. It aims to realise the ambitions of our Local Industrial Strategy, build on the successes of our 5G testbed, and tackle decisively the issue of digital exclusion. But we know we cannot do this alone. This refresh aims to really push the boundaries of collaborative working, maximising areas of mutual interest between the public, private and third sectors. I hope that this document makes clear our intent to digitise the West Midlands and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.
Cllr Pat Harley WMCA Culture and Digital Portfolio Holder and Leader of Dudley Council
Over 2020, the importance of digital technology has become clear to all of us – for work, communicating with family and friends, providing entertainment, and helping us manage our health. Businesses and communities have adapted remarkably, showing the trademark innovation that our region is known for. Yet too many of our communities are still left behind by the digital divide, forced to share a single laptop between large families or unable to navigate digital platforms. And too many of our businesses are unable to realise the benefits of digital, through limited connectivity or outdated technology.
This Roadmap sets out an ambitious direction of travel for the West Midlands – to become a forward looking and inclusive digital economy, where data is used to improve our public services and the latest technology used to reduce our carbon footprint. If we work together, both pushing past frontiers and fixing our foundations, the West Midlands can lead the way in this fourth industrial revolution as we did in the first.
Kari Lawler Young Combined Authority Digital Lead
As a tech entrepreneur, I have seen first-hand how pivotal investing in and levelling-up digital capabilities is for our region. Countless opportunities can be created through improvements in connectivity, data usage, and innovation. A strong focus on digital inclusion can then provide everyone with equal access. From my experience speaking to thousands of young people through my digital youth initiative, I see a lot of talent but too little support. So we need to make sure industry support is in place for these young people to gain vital careers advice, industry skills and experience. Pre-skilling the regions youth now will be essential to filling current and future digital skills shortages, and setting our digital economy up for success.