Fixing the digital divide is still priority, says Andy Burnham

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Andy Burnham has reaffirmed ambitions for Greater Manchester to become one of the first digitally enabled city-regions.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester said residents in the region will have the opportunity to be equipped with the skills, connectivity and technology to get online.

The Mayor made his ambitions clear during Digital Leaders Week where he joined a panel of experts who shared progress towards Greater Manchester’s ambition to become a world leading digital city region, covering work on the digitisation of early years, digital infrastructure and digital inclusion across the region.

At the event, the Mayor referenced the new Digital Inclusion Action Network, which will lead targeted action to combat digital exclusion within with a specific focus on supporting under-25s, over-75s and disabled people in Greater Manchester.

Andy Burnham

It will take on a delivery focused role with a specific focus on supporting these target groups.

The new action network will work closely with the Greater Manchester Digital Inclusion Taskforce and enable the Mayor to work in collaboration with businesses, local authorities, schools, voluntary and charitable organisations to drive forward this ambition.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said: “If Greater Manchester is truly going to be a world leading digital city region, we have to make a big commitment to fix the digital divide, the consequences of not doing so are severe – with our people at risk of further social isolation, lack of equal opportunities and not being able to access support.

“We are ensuring that everyone in Greater Manchester, whatever their age, location or situation, can benefit from the opportunities digital brings. Now is the time where Greater Manchester can lead the way in achieving an ambition that we should all strive for country wide”.

Ensuring residents can get online, access public services and develop their digital skills will drive positive social and economic change for both residents and businesses, helping to position Greater Manchester as the key city-region for businesses seeking a digitally skilled workforce.

Opening the event, newly announced Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) Lead for Digital, Work & Skills, Councillor Andrew Western highlighted figures released last week that show the North West’s attractiveness –overtaking the South East in 2020 as the UK’s second-biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) location outside of London.

Councillor Western said: “Organisations are wanting to tap into the tech talent, cost effectiveness and entrepreneurial spirit behind home grown successes – like The Hut Group, AO and AutoTrader, and our social enterprises and willingness to collaborate to innovate.

“And what underpins this are our universities and colleges, our infrastructure and the dedicated support available to tech companies, with particular specialisms, including CityLab’s in Manchester, GCHQ’s programmes, HOST in Salford, and Ashton Old Baths in Tameside to name but a few.”