The Lord Mayor of London Alan Yarrow has identified infrastructure as one of the keys to unlocking the capital’s future growth.
Given that the tech sector is at the very heart of London’s economic success – with a further £1.6bn being pumped into tech investment this year alone – the Lord Mayor’s statement has never been more true for the capital’s digital community.
Tech companies at every stage of the growth trajectory are lacking some of the most basic tools for the industry. Think no further than a decent Internet connection. Without a concerted, collaborative effort to tackle London’s infrastructure problem, the industry’s potential for growth will be challenged.
Connectivity is the bedrock of any digital business. Yet nearly half of companies in a recent Tech London Advocates report said that a lack of broadband in the capital is damaging the city’s reputation as a centre for digital excellence. London also ranked 38 out of 45 major UK cities for broadband speed when examined as part of Ookla’s “Net Index Explorer”.
In recent years, London has been able to attract Facebook and Google to establish their European bases in the city. The capital has also played host to almost half of Europe’s billion-dollar unicorn startups, with thirteen established in the city. But digital businesses gravitate towards environments that facilitate growth, and serviceable infrastructure is a vital ingredient.
It’s not just how our data gets around the city that’s causing trouble. As London edges closer every year to the threshold of 10 million inhabitants, the problem of how Londoners get from A to B is threatening the growth of future business. Roads are clogged, the tube is rammed, and plans for airport expansion continue to stall.
According to Transport for London, the current congestion on the streets of London is costing the city £4bn a year. Tackle the problem of the third runway at Heathrow as well and the City of London will become infinitely more attractive to international business and domestic startups.
Local councils need to not only start addressing the challenges that have been identified time and time again by the digital community, but they need to start deploying the digital solutions at their fingertips. Optimity is a great example of a London-based tech company offering low-cost broadband without digging up our roads and sharing economy companies such as Parkatmyhouse.com and Hailo could take cars off our streets.
Digital business, and London’s residents, must commit to some joined-up thinking. If each of these infrastructure issues is tackled through private sector collaboration and government support, London can expect to continue to harness the power of technological growth in years to come.