Theme 3: Digital borough

“We need to be bold and to think big. This involves being willing to try new ways of doing things. I see London’s future as a global ‘test-bed city’ for civic innovation, where the best ideas are developed, amplified and scaled.” – Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Smarter London Together plan, July 2018

We will maximise opportunities for digital design, data and technology to enhance growth, quality of life, sustainability and individual opportunity in Croydon.

Where we want to be

Our desired outcomes are:

  • Croydon has a thriving digital business sector and community, with a mixed ecosystem of startups, small to medium sized enterprises and large technology companies moving to and growing in the borough
  • Croydon has outstanding digital infrastructure, including ultrafast internet and mobile network connectivity, able to support the ambitions of our residents, businesses, community and voluntary sector, and public services
  • Croydon has a digitally-confident population, able to make the most of opportunities that being active on the internet brings, should they choose to do so, reducing social exclusion
  • Croydon residents have the skills to access the jobs of the future, and employers have access to a pipeline of local talent for digital, data and technology careers
  • Croydon’s digital and tech workforce indexes higher than the national average for BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) and female employees, reflecting our diverse borough
  • Croydon’s community and voluntary sector is digitally mature, able to adopt the culture, processes, business models and technologies of the internet era to fulfill their mission
  • Croydon is using a range of innovative data and technology driven solutions to create a sustainable and more efficient borough, with a growing reputation as a leading destination for innovation in Smart Cities, GovTech and Urbantech

Where we are now

Croydon has a strong reputation as a fast-growing digital ecosystem, a pioneer in digital inclusion initiatives and an early adopter of innovative technology.

We’re incredibly proud of our thriving  tech sector, which has grown by 41% in the past 5 years to over 2,000 businesses and nearly 8,000 jobs, and of our desirable conditions for tech startups and scale-ups including co-working spaces such as TMRW and the Sussex Innovation Centre. We owe much to Croydon Tech City,  the voluntary organisation that promoted Croydon as the “Silicon Valley of South London” between 2012 and 2018, and we have recently launched Croydon Digital to continue to convene, promote and grow our tech economy.

On digital skills, in recent years we have supported digital inclusion initiatives through the Our Community fund, and partnered with Doteveryone to bring 3rd parties and the community together to change people’s lives through digital skills and access. CALAT provides adult courses in digital skills, and the council itself provides apprenticeship opportunities in digital and technology roles.

In the Smart City Programme paper to Cabinet in December 2017 we set out our ambition to become a world-class digital and smart city, with a forward plan of activities in partnership with private sector and community. Since then, we’ve made significant progress on all themes of the paper, with a wide variety of initiatives both underway and in development.

However, there is room for improvement across all these areas, and enormous potential to change perceptions of Croydon and ensure our people and businesses thrive in the internet era.

We need to do more to promote Croydon as a destination for tech businesses, and rebuild momentum and grow the ambition for tech community events. Digital skills work has tailed off and should be brought back to the fore to ensure no resident is left behind as a consequence of low digital literacy, and to ensure people of all ages have access to the jobs of the future. Our Smart Cities work is still nascent, and now needs to come together as a mainstream activity in our digital roadmap, aligned to the Smarter London Together and sub-regional plans, with a particular focus on improving broadband connectivity speeds across the borough.

What we will do

To move forward in this area, we will:

  • Take a proactive role in convening, facilitating and promoting Croydon’s digital, data and technology community under the brand Croydon Digital, further developing the brand, events programme and website to support business-to-business connections, recruitment, careers advice and skills, resources for non-digital businesses, and to encourage inward investment
  • Form a Croydon Digital Board with representation from Croydon’s tech community and wider experts to collaboratively develop plans to grow Croydon Digital, with ambitions to establish Croydon as a leader in GovTech and launch an annual digital festival
  • Seek out and exploit opportunities to strengthen and expand the availability of tech co-working spaces, incubators, co-ops and accelerators in the town and other district centres
  • Work with the education sector and other partner organisations to boost the number of people with the skills needed to contribute to our local digital economy, by improving the tech skills offer for people of all ages at existing institutions, and creating a new offer working with schools, FE and HE institutions. Tech will form a core part of the Croydon Creative Campus
  • Take a research-based approach to identify the skills needed by our local digital businesses and the best means of developing them, including creating more apprenticeships and work experience opportunities in digital careers
  • Deliver our already published action plan for connectivity in Croydon, working with providers of fixed, wireless and mobile solutions in a holistic manner to deliver ultrafast broadband to all homes (prioritising social housing) and businesses, public WiFi where it is needed most, and prepare Croydon for the future with 5G and small cell networks
  • Launch a Croydon Digital Challenge, to identify and seed-fund innovative solutions to local civic problems, starting with 2 challenges in 2019/20 with a view to repeating and growing the approach if it delivers value both for the council and participants
  • Continue to take forward Smart City pilots using our Internet of Things network and advances in sensor technology and artificial intelligence to better manage public assets and improve sustainability in public services, with the aim of converting at least 1 successful pilot into a full-scale solution each year, starting in 2019/20
  • Take forward pilots to improve the public realm through Smart City solutions, looking at innovation such as smart pavements, smart benches, electric vehicle charging points and the use of digital advertising for wayfinding and local information
  • Actively work with property developers to encourage uptake of Smart City solutions in the built environment, and explore the potential to develop a digital and Smart City infrastructure standard for all new property development
  • Take forward the CCTV digitisation programme to enhance safety in Croydon including implementation of on-street cameras, an enhanced control room and connectivity
  • Undertake a review of our current digital inclusion offer to inform a new approach to providing residents with the confidence and access to use the internet and to reduce levels of social exclusion
  • Promote and develop our offer for the innovative use of assisted technology in enabling residents to remain healthy, safe and independent, including helping those with care needs to stay longer in their own homes
  • Explore opportunities to support and promote the use of community-focused platforms to enhance the local economy, encourage ‘buying local’ and create social value, for example activities, business and volunteering listings, b2b collaboration apps and a local currency
  • Deliver an ongoing portfolio of smaller Smart City, digital economy and digital skills initiatives, prioritised on our public roadmap