Most informed people tend to agree, broadband services can be applied as an enabler of socioeconomic advancement. However, while high-speed internet access is an important ingredient for gaining entry into the global networked economy, its application is most effective when used as part of a concerted effort to empower the members of a local community.
Howard’s recent story about the role of broadband in rural development attracted some interesting commentary — both on the blog post and within the LinkedIn groups where I shared a summary. Most of the comments were about infrastructure investment, but some of the other insights reminded me of the observations that I made during my recent trip to London, England.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for most rural communities is the lack of an ecosystem of private and public organizations that are focused on a common cause — the development of a local digital economy. Clearly, it’s more likely that all the required resources are available and engaged in a large metropolitan area, such as London.
Unfortunately, I arrived in London the week after the Digital Shoreditch Festival was scheduled, but I was able to visit the area and assess the local emerging digital business environment. The Shoreditch festival included a Summit that was intended to enable attendees to “connect with the brightest brains, creatives and visionaries catalysing Shoreditch’s vibrant digital economy.”
Proactive Digital Economy Market Development
The area of East London known as the Silicon Roundabout provides a good case study of how local constituents can work together to develop digital business ecosystem strategies. Local commercial organizations, such as TechHub and Start Hub, offer shared office space for early-stage companies with the opportunity to connect and collaborate with entrepreneur peers or discover resources that provide support services.
This vibrant metro-based tech business cluster has organically emerged from the initial market seeding activities, and it has become the foundation for a broader economic development plan known as the East London Tech City expanded hub project. The area is already home to one of the largest concentrations of small, fast- growing digital technology companies in Europe.
In addition to the groups already focused on local market development activities, there are a variety of regional and national organizations in the UK that offer related services. The following are some noteworthy examples:
Technology Strategy Board — the UK’s national innovation agency. Their goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.
National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts — NESTA is the UK’s foremost independent expert on how innovation can solve some of the country’s major economic and social challenges.
UK Trade and Investment — UKTI works to boost UK export performance, attract foreign direct investment to the UK, and enhance the UK’s reputation in global markets.
Crafting Compelling Reasons for Local Investment
Do you have a list of the best attributes that your community can offer creative digital practitioners? Can you articulate how your community will expand the local network infrastructure’s strategic relevance and develop architectures for new business creation or legacy business transformation?
The UKTI says “If you’re looking for somewhere to locate your high-tech start-up, need access to funding or want to work in an environment that really values creative, inventive talent, then look no further than London’s flourishing Tech City.”
Seven reasons to invest in Tech City London:
The Place: At the heart of London, the leading international business hub and the number-one European location for IT.
The Backing: Commitment from government; backing from industry, banking and academia.
The Cash: Access to London’s world-leading financial services sector and Europe’s largest VC community.
The Speed: Cutting-edge ICT, digital and creative facilities, including those available at the Olympic Park post 2012; priority area for superfast broadband.
The Talent: Access to an established and growing community of tech-focused companies and people.
The Connections: World-class international transport links, with Eurostar rail terminal and major airports close by; proximity to leading technology universities.
The Buzz: Vibrant multi-cultural commercial and social scene, creating a buzz to generate new ideas and innovation and attract the best talent.