By Lauren Millward, Communication & Enagagement Lead, GMCA Digital portfolio
17th January 2022
2021 has been another strange year for us all, it has seen many changes to our everyday lives as the way we work and live continues to change and evolve. The digital sector has continued to grow as it has rapidly responded and adapted to these changes. The pace of change has been massive and continues to be, but not everyone is comfortable with it.
The last 12 months has also been a busy year for the Greater Manchester digital sector. It has been a year of rapid transformation, development and innovation and our communication efforts have had to keep up with that pace of change. Some of my personal highlights include…
In January 2021, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) launched phase two of the Greater Manchester Technology Fund as an emergency response to support disadvantaged young people learning from home, following the lockdown announcement and immediate closure of schools and colleges.
Following the launch of phase two of the fund, GMCA teamed up with the Manchester Evening News and Business in the Community (BITC) to hold a Digital Donation Day on Friday 22nd January to encourage businesses and individuals to support the Greater Manchester Technology Fund.
The M.E.N Digital Donation Day raised £188,600 in donations of funds, new tech data packages and used device donations for the GM Tech Fund, to help digitally excluded young people across Greater Manchester.
The fund was also shortlisted for a 2021 CIPR Pride NW award in the Best COVID Response category.
Hundreds of public sites across Greater Manchester are now connected to next-generation digital infrastructure after the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Network rollout has been substantially completed, delivering an economic boost already worth nearly £12m.
In early 2020, Greater Manchester announced its partnership with Virgin Media Business to deliver fibre optic connectivity to public sector sites throughout the city-region.
It was great to be able to communication that, despite the challenges of Covid-19, with work due to start as the UK’s first national lockdown was announced, rapid progress was made, and a report shows significant local economic benefits of the work with £11.8m of overall local economic value (direct and indirect) for year one.
And since then we’ve been able to publish The ‘Tackling digital inequality in Greater Manchester’ report. The report provides an update on the positive impact the business has achieved in Greater Manchester through its social value programme, as well as its ambitious plans for the next four years.
In March 2021, Digital City Festival returned with a twist, the usual festival instead took shape as a two weeklong online event. As keynote sponsors of the festival, we hosted two events during the fortnight: Fixing the digital divide in Greater Manchester and beyond! and Cyber security and a global pandemic. The events weren’t simply the standard Zoom/Teams, instead events were filmed in a socially distanced studio.
Later in March, we were pleased to launch another round of the Fast Track Digital Workforce Fund, offering a series of free digital skills training bootcamps for Greater Manchester residents.
These flexible programmes were funded by the Department for Education Digital Bootcamps to fast track under-employed and unemployed residents into the industry’s most in demand jobs including Software Development and Cloud Engineering.
The GMCA and Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership (LDSP) announced the four projects successful in receiving funding were: Your Journey through Tech: Dev-Ops Upskill’ from Tech Returners, Master: Coding from Code Nation, The IN4.0 Talent Academy and NorthCoders Diversity Scholarship.
Following his re-election in May, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham announced ambitions for Greater Manchester to become one of the first city-regions in the world to equip all under-25s, over-75s and disabled people with the skills, connectivity and technology to get online.
As part of this new ambition, the Mayor has established a Digital Inclusion Action Network to lead targeted action to combat digital exclusion within these target groups in Greater Manchester.
One of our communication aims has been to shine a spotlight on digital exclusion and why its so important that we all work together to fix the digital divide. This year, we teamed up with ITV Granada to run a feature on digital exclusion “The Digital Divide: 'I didn't want to live anymore” featuring Greater Manchester resident Bernard Whipday.
A new look Digital Inclusion Agenda webpage was also produced featuring blogs and case studies from Digital Inclusion Taskforce members to amplify and showcase the work organisations across Greater Manchester are doing to support residents to get online.
Back for the second year, throughout October we delivered Digitober, a whole month dedicated to creating and sharing content that celebrates Greater Manchester’s digital sector and how we are a city-region doing digital differently.
As we continue to develop Greater Manchester as a world-leading digital city region, with an ongoing commitment to taking an open, innovative and connective approach to delivering that ambition, we will ensure our digital city-region is well celebrated and showcased. Digitober is one of the ways we achieve these ambitions. Throughout the month we shared blogs and case studies from wide range of organisations including TalkTalk, Wigan Council, Huawei and Manchester Digital. There was also lots of events, videos and news shared across the month.
On Thursday 11th November at The Shard, London, team behind the Greater Manchester’s Early Years Application were delighted to be announced as winners at the Digital leaders 100 Awards. The Greater Manchester Early Years Application digitises early years assessments for children aged 0 to 2.5 years.
The awards ceremony celebrated the teams and individuals who are working hard behind the scenes to secure the UK’s Digital Transformation. Following a public vote and presentation to a panel of judges the Early Years App (Early Years Integrated Solution) was crowned winner of Digital Public Service Innovation of the Year Award 2021. Find out more about the award win
We also launched a new animation to help communicate the app and outline how this is helping giving our young people in Greater Manchester the best start in life.
In 2022, we are looking forward to another exciting year for the Greater Manchester digital sector, we will be working hard toward our digital ambitions as a city region and continue to communicate all things digital!