17 October 2014

Earlier this week, I heard about a think tank report claiming that without improvement to transport links Northern cities like Manchester and Leeds would fail to reach their potential as major tech hubs.

high_fibre_boxPersonally, I think the first question here is: have these people ever used the internet? You don’t need lightening fast transport links between cities to thrive as a tech hub. Consider Palo Alto, which used to be a remote town outside San Francisco. Now it’s one of the key players in the tech industry and an area recognised worldwide for innovation and ground-breaking RnD.

I think success is all about working somewhere amazing, somewhere that has the right ingredients to become the stomping ground of new and exciting technology companies. It’s about having a buzz, a sense of community and collaboration. You might be thinking, “Yes, but we need better rail links in order to collaborate”, yet I’d have to disagree.

The whole idea about using technology is so that you don’t have to be holding hands with the person next to you. It allows remote working from almost anywhere. Manchester already has a two hour rail connection to London, the biggest UK tech hub, and in my opinion, there’s simply no need to make it faster. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be investing in transport at all – there are plenty of rural areas that are left out on a limb – but surely the real issue here is our connection to the fibre.

There are miles of fibre-optic cabling underneath the roads in Manchester, for example, not being used to their full potential. There’s definitely some sorting out to do when it comes to improving and making better use of it. As an organisation, we’ve taken matters into our own hands, dug up the roads and laid fibre ourselves, but there’s more we can do as a city to speed up and rival London in terms of connectivity. Transport links, in my opinion, simply aren’t the top priority.

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