Labour mayoral hopeful wants ‘education, education, education’ in technology.
London mayoral hopeful Dame Tessa Jowell has criticised the capital’s lack of affordable spaces, poor broadband speeds and skills gap as holding back the capital’s tech sector.
At a Bloomberg event for London Tech Week, she claimed it was vital to tap into the "ambition, the energy and ideas" of young entrepreneurs, not as a form of philanthropy but in order to access "reciprocal benefit" for all.
"We do have a thriving culture of entrepreneurship but often ambitious young Londoners, some from more disadvantaged backgrounds, are locked out, and one of the barriers to entry in the tech sector is affordable space to set up digital businesses."
She praised initiatives by Somewhere To and Founders For Good for providing free spaces for young entrepreneurs.
"If we don’t open up the sector with these kinds of collaborations…then our economy is denied the opportunity of exploiting and developing that talent."
Jowell also called out London’s broadband infrastructure for hampering the tech sector, saying:
"Broadband speeds are some of the worst in the country and we all live with the effects of that to a greater or lesser degree everyday, with Westminster and the City of London at the bottom of the table for broadband speed.
"I want to ensure, with all the agencies I can create a voice with, that London has the infrastructure we need to face the future with confidence, and that means securing the broadband speeds that can power a world-leading tech city."
There were echoes of Tony Blair’s ‘education, education, education’ mantra as New Labour veteran Jowell identified the "biggest long-term threat" and the "biggest barrier of all": the London skills gap.
"There are at least 25,000 new tech jobs in London every year…and in further education, just 2400 students chose a technology-specific course.
"We need to bring schools, colleges and businesses together to close this skills gap, and there is no time to waste; this is an urgent requirement. We need to get London school children coding, standards in higher education improving and business building London’s future talent pool."
London’s burgeoning tech sector may become something of a political Blarney Stone for candidates in the upcoming 2016 mayoral elections. It provides an opportunity to demonstrate pro-business credentials while remaining less controversial than the city’s other major export industry, financial services. Telegraph columnist, MP, Cabinet Member and incumbent mayor Boris Johnson has consistently trumpeted London tech as a success story for the capital.