Land of Hope and Technology February 2016 - Page 16

ISSUE 1 Conclusion In June of 2014, a report entitled ‘London: Digital city on the rise’ stated: “In recent years, something new has been happening in London. As more and more knowledge becomes digital, the city’s deep base of professional expertise has helped fuel a thriving urban tech scene in the East End, Soho and areas across the city. Increasing numbers of tech start-ups are receiving national and international attention, and tech giants such as Google and Facebook have been bolstering their presence in London.” At the launch of London technology week 2015, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said: “I meet people around London and they ask ‘when do you go back to San Francisco?’ assuming I’m here for a few days, but I live in London. “There’s always this bit of British selfdeprecation about ‘oh well, things are so great in Silicon Valley’. But I can tell you, things aren’t that great in Silicon Valley. London has all these incredible advantages of a tech scene, but it’s also a place people want to live. Nobody wants to live in Silicon Valley – it’s dreadful out there. “London is this incredible cultural city, it’s at the crossroads of the world. In the US you have San Francisco for tech, Los Angeles for movies and Washington for politics. In London you have all these things. It’s a great place to do business.” Back in 1983, I was in central London, navigating the Underground as a fresh faced graduate on my way to a job interview. As I stood in the queue to buy a ticket at a tube station, two Americans stood behind me with very loud voices. It was difficult not to hear their conversation. One said: “What a dump…what a dump.” The other nodded his assent, and said “To think this used to be one of the most advanced countries in the world.” But things have changed since then, they have changed radically. If those two Americans could have somehow been transported from that tube station queue in 1983 to London in the summer of 2015, once they had got over the shock of time travel, they would, I think, have been quite amazed at how London has transformed itself. London is no longer a dump, it is one of the most extraordinary, vibrant and dynamic cities on Earth. From this hub, the UK can spread out, and we can see the emergence of other clusters, maybe they will feed off London to begin with, maybe they can be quite independent. What is clear is that the final result can be something special. The UK can stand at the centre of the world’s new technological revolution, creating wealth, not only for UK plc, but contributing towards the global economy too, creating innovations and new business ideas that may help end poverty and extend lives. Our ability to mess up, is still there. The rest of this book will drill down, attempt to correct myths, try and balance the British sense of self-deprecation (modesty is good, but not if it comes at the expense of talking yourself into defeatism), and shed light on what can make the new British economy great, in part by refusing to pander to waves of selfdefeating hysterical populism. There is hope for the UK, and that hope lies in this land learning to take its many advantages and master the bold game of entrepreneurism and of technology.