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Technology Planning and Analysis

London Mayoral Candidates Talk Tech: Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrats

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With the London Mayoral elections coming up in April, IDG Connect has reached out to each of the candidates of the main parties. Today, Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon lays out her plan for tech in London.




If elected Mayor, what would you do to help support London Tech City and the technology scene in general in London?

The key, particularly for new technology, is planning ahead. The rub is that some technologies do develop at a faster rate than others, so the basic principle of constantly planning ahead and recognising that innovation is inevitable is totally right. When elected Mayor one of my earliest hires will be of a Chief Digital Officer to ensure we can deliver a world class digital strategy.

Do you think the capital’s tech scene can rival the likes of Silicon Valley, and what do you think needs to happen before we reach that point?

A first step would be that we consider superfast broadband provision as just another utility. We wouldn’t settle for Londoners having inadequate access to gas, electricity or water in some parts of the capital, and the same applies to broadband. If we can sort this out we can start to rival – indeed beat given the other attractive options London has to offer - other tech hubs around the world.

There have been reports that the rising cost of rent is pushing tech firms out of central London – what are your thoughts on this?

I have strongly opposed the Government’s relaxation of the rules allowing commercial property to be converted without planning permission to residential use. Such a policy delivers little in the way of useful housing, but it wrecks economic opportunities, especially for smaller companies needing new premises. The success of London has always been because the mixture of business, retail and residential side by side in our city has always worked well. It would be madness to change that.

Would you support London following in New York in providing free Wi-Fi around the city?

A number of London’s boroughs already are starting to provide this and I would encourage all to do so.  We should also look at expanding the provision of free Wi-Fi across all of London’s transport network so, whatever mode of public transport you choose to use, you have access at all time.

Greenwich has recently launched a driverless car trial, are you in favour of autonomous vehicles in the city?

In principle I have no objection, although recognise that more work needs to be done to ensure that in a busy city people feel safe not only in the vehicles , but also those walking or cycling around feel secure. We also must ensure that people with disabilities are not put at risk as they move around London.

Likewise, would you be in favour of commercial drones flying over the city (for example parcel delivery)?

Not sure. Although I am keen to see the number of light goods vehicles reduced on our streets. If you allow commercial operators to deliver by drone you have to consider that there are security, privacy and noise issues to overcome. For example if you work or live in or around St James Park or Westminster I can see a lot of objections being raised by others as your supermarket shopping is flown in!

Do you think technology can play a bigger role in helping make London better e.g. apps, Smart City initiatives, more digital services etc.?

Absolutely. The ability to access, in real time, travel data has transformed the way we travel around the city. But we could do so much more. The London Datastore is a positive development, but it could go so much further. It boasts that it has over 500 datasets on it but go to the New York equivalent – the NYC Open Data – and it has over 1300 datasets. London is doing some positive things, especially Transport for London, but the opportunities to do so much more are immense.

In particular we need to ensure data from London Boroughs is automatically released, so creating open data on a whole range of new areas. Positive policies to improve fire safety, and to tackle empty homes and environmental crimes could be available if the data was freely available.

What’s your view on making coding mandatory for children? Will it help reduce skills shortages or will forcing it on kids turn them off to the idea?

Although naturally reluctant to tell schools what they ought to teach, I do think that every opportunity should be made available for kids to learn coding. You have to equip children with the skills needed in the workplace and in the 21st century it is clear that coding is one of those skills.

What are your views on the proposed “Snooper’s Charter”?

Liberal Democrats are firmly opposed to this. We criticised the Government’s draft Bill for being too vague. We have seen before how the Security and Intelligence Services have interpreted vague legislation to take powers far wider than ever foreseen by Parliament. We cannot make the same mistake again.

Are you in favour of eVoting in elections?

I’m certainly in favour of electronic counting - the mayoral election would take even longer than it already does to count were it to be done by hand, but I am always looking for confidence in the safeguarding of the ballot and therefore need to be convinced about the security issues before giving a categorical yes to the idea.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has previously said politicians need to “get tech-savvy or get left behind.” Do you agree, and how tech savvy would you say you are?

I agree with Tim.  As to how ‘tech-savvy’ I am, I leave it to others to judge.

What devices do you use to access the internet/conduct work?

Phone, tablet, laptop and desk top computer – all dependent on where I am and if I’m travelling.

Do you know how to code?

No – but I am determined my 2 year old son will learn how to do so.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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