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West Midlands sets out bold vision for digital future

todayFebruary 1, 2021 2

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The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has launched its plan to give the region a digital reboot, intending to tackle digital exclusion, reach net zero and support a post-Covid recovery. It outlines five missions to ‘digitise’ the area, including becoming the UK’s best digitally connected region and increasing access to digital opportunities by tackling digital exclusion.

The WMCA Digital Roadmap was presented at Venturefest West Midlands, one of the region’s top business events for digital entrepreneurs. This year’s keynote speaker was Ben Francis, the West Midlands-based founder of the billion-dollar sportswear brand Gymshark.

The plan will build on the region’s 5G testbed successes and its innovation in transport and unique regional opportunities like HS2, the Commonwealth Games, and Coventry City of Culture.

The Digital Roadmap was launched by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands. He said: “This Roadmap sets out an ambitious plan for the West Midlands – to become a technologically advanced, forward-looking digital economy. 

“Embedding the latest technology into our economy will also help us reach net-zero, where innovation still has a huge role to play in reducing the burden on us to change the way we live our lives.”

As well as aiming to make the West Midlands the most digitally connected region in the UK, the roadmap seeks to address the ‘digital divide.’ Since the pandemic began, many firms have quickly adapted to their employees working from home and communicating online. However, many small businesses have struggled to adopt technology fast enough and some families have struggled with homeschooling due to a lack of devices or unaffordable connections.

Venturefest West Midlands was founded to provide entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators to meet, engage and exchange ideas for cooperation and collaboration, particularly in science and emerging technologies. It is led by the WMCA along with local enterprise partnerships, universities and business organisations.

Cllr Patrick Harley, WMCA portfolio lead for Culture and Digital and Dudley Council leader, said: “Digital connectivity is going to be vital to our economic recovery, and harnessing digital innovation will enable economic growth for the next decade and beyond.

“This roadmap will help us realise the potential for digital to transform our economy and build economic resilience, firmly putting the West Midlands on the map as the most digitally connected region.”

Written by: Aaron

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