Croydon is changing

Over £5 billion is being pumped into Croydon's regeneration, with huge opportunities for us to lead on 'sustainability innovation'.

That fact is irrefutable. Croydon is changing, over £5 billion is being pumped into its regeneration, and the whole town is going through a transformation of the likes it hasn’t seen before.

Connected Space is a technology innovation company firmly rooted in Croydon, and committed to delivering transformational change with the organisations we work with – from start-ups to pivoting mid-size companies to large global corporations. Much like Croydon itself, our next five years will be about growth. But in order for this to be a success, the change will need to be driven by ‘sustainable innovation’.

We live in hugely exciting times for the tech sector. Groundbreaking innovation is around every corner, and advancements are fundamentally disrupting the world around us. From ‘Artificial Intelligence’ to the ‘Internet of Things’ to ‘Blockchain’, these emerging technologies are already being being applied to solve real challenges in real world situations, as well as creating exciting new products/services and business models. Take Artificial Intelligence for example. It’s being put to work within the medical sector, and industrial companies are already benefiting from the implementation of Augmented and Virtual Reality. We’ve all heard of self-driving cars, and one day (probably sooner than we expect in Croydon) we could be moved around our cities in shared autonomous electric vehicles – at the exact time we want, and with a price tailored to our needs.

However, the excitement and possibilities that this myriad of new innovations provide can often be over-hyped, especially within the so called ‘smart cities’ sector. What is actually needed right now is more straightforward and sustainable innovation, with fundamental services that truly serve the needs of citizens, businesses, and communities. With our towns and cities changing so fast, they need to be listened to carefully, and then be part of co-creating meaningful solutions to the problems they face right now, not just the problems they might face one day in a far-away future.

‘Sustainability innovation’ is truly the name of the game.

The last thing that is needed right now is another pizza robot or package delivering drone which, whilst generating some great PR fizz, isn’t the kind of sustainable innovation that’s going to deliver real transformational change that addresses real world problems.

Take potholes, for example. Not a particularly glamorous or exciting subject, but there’s not a driver or cyclist in the UK that doesn’t want this real problem tackled better. Rightfully so given that each year in Britain around 50 cyclists are killed or seriously injured by poor roads. But despite this, the approach for addressing this problem has largely remained the same for decades, and has ignored the transformative power of the emerging technologies to help provide answers. Connected Space, with funding from the Department for Transport and Croydon Council as a Local Authority partner, has leveraged artificial intelligence technologies to develop an innovative solution to this real world challenge. There’s a huge opportunity when considering the potential of Local Authorities, Metropolitan and National Government to redesign and reengineer services that are leveraging emerging technologies and ways of working to truly transform our societies for the better.

With all sectors now being digitally transformed by the power of technology, the Government sector clearly has a long way to go – especially when compared to sectors like the Media (where our co-founders met over 12 years ago) – but the potential for transformative and positive impacts for citizens is a true game-changer.

‘GovTech’ is now a ‘thing’. It’s a growing sector worth an estimated £6.6 billion in 2015, and is expected to grow to £20 billion by 2025. Government reforms (particularly since 2010) have shown the UK to be a world leader in governmental digitisation, and we should all welcome Croydon Council’s appointment of ex-Government Digital Services super-star Neil Williams as it’s first ever Chief Digital Officer. The public sector needs to up its game in order to keep up with its citizens who quickly adopt new technologies into their everyday lives, and this requires a whole new mindset when it comes to User Centric design of services/products/processes. Services, products, and processes that have to be underpinned through a strong appreciation of emerging technologies. Old legacy systems, single supplier contracts, and ancient procurement policies are simply no longer fit for purpose.

Croydon, the capital of GovTech?

However, GovTech doesn’t currently have a recognised ‘home’ within the UK, unlike most other ‘…Tech’s’ do.  FinTech is synonymous with Canary Wharf/Shoreditch, Smart Cities has it’s national test area in Manchester, Open Data has been claimed by Bristol, and Cybersecurity is shared across Cheltenham and East London.

The capital of GovTech is up for grabs, and with it a golden opportunity for that place to create sustainable innovation for its citizens along with the creation of new and exciting technology jobs across the borough, and global recognition as a GovTech centre of excellence.

Croydon has the fertile environment required to claim this title. We’re London’s growth Borough, we already have significant Government presence in our town with the likes of HMRC, the Home Office, HM Land Registry and the Pension Protection Fund, we now have a highly respected Chief Digital Officer driving transformational change at our ambitious council, and alongside all of that Croydon boasts a vibrant technology community creating the future today.

So. Who’s up for it? #notmessingaround

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