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Andy Burnham makes inspirational call to action on digital inclusivity and skills at Digital City Festival launch

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The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has said this year’s Digital City Festival is “about the new world we’re coming into” as he appeared at the official launch of the third iteration of the event series.

This year’s Digital City Festival kicked off in style this morning with a high-profile event held at the offices of HOST in MediaCity, with addresses from Festival Director Martyn Collins and the CEO of IN4 Group Mo Isap, as well as Burnham.

He said: “[2020’s festival] was like the end of the old world. Digital City Festival 2021 was a world in transition. This year’s festival is about the new world we’re coming into. Things have changed, and the cities that prosper in this new world will be the ones that recognise that quickly.”


Digital City Festival is an unmissable celebration of the digital sector hosted across Greater Manchester, and includes a formal Leaders’ Reception sponsored by MIDAS tomorrow, the prestigious Digital City Awards at the Etihad Stadium, and a wide range of partner events.

Its central event takes place on March 9th and 10th at Manchester Central – Digital City Expo, which will unite thousands of digital professionals at the convention centre to meet innovative businesses and hear from a broad range of thought leaders.

In 2020, Andy Burnham opened the very first Digital City Festival, saying that it will “put Manchester ever more clearly on the digital and tech map, and there’s no reason why it can’t go on to become like South by Southwest.”

Today, he spoke about the importance of inclusivity in digital and the steps the Greater Manchester Combined Authority was taking towards addressing the issue, after those in attendance, including media representatives and event supporters, heard from Collins and Isap.

After an introduction from HOST Salford, Martyn Collins gave a brief outline of the week to come and welcomed representatives to the festival, saying: “This year we’re back, and we’re live.”

With a nod to the fact that hybrid events are the way of the future, Collins said it was fitting to launch in MediaCity in 2022 – a year after the destination served as the home of the virtual festival in 2021, broadcast entirely online.

He was followed by Mo Isap of IN4 Group and HOST, who said the festival “gives us the real impetus to get out and start to reconnect with our communities – this is what it’s about.”

He added: “This festival is all about celebrating success. Here we have vision, here we are always looking forward. History is where we learn, but tomorrow is for us to make,” in a talk reminiscent of Tony Walsh’s famous ‘This Is The Place’ poem.

Mo Isap at Digital City Festival 2022's launch

Andy Burnham identified some areas in which Manchester was becoming a world-leader if not already, including cyber – saying “we have aspirations to become the home of cyber” after acknowledging the instability and regular shocks facing the globe.

“What does it mean now, post-pandemic, to be a digital city region? I think it is about [building] a place where everybody has, every day, digital access.” He laid a challenge at those businesses gathered in the room to widen access where they can, and keep digital inclusion at the heart of their discussions this entire week and beyond.

He moved on to look at the potential of the city region – one whose digital economy is currently worth £5 billion. According to Burnham, this could become a £10 billion economy.

“We are Europe’s fastest-growing digital and tech hub,” he said. There are new opportunities opening up for Manchester too, with the expansion to the city of organisations including DCMS and other public bodies. However, there are still obstacles facing the sector and city from a lack of digital skills and an inequality in access to them.

“The most diverse organisations in the digital world will be the most successful, because they’re drawing on the talents of all people and therefore they’re in touch with all of their customers. That will be what makes a successful digital business.

“Let’s use Digital City Festival 2022 for that purpose. To build Greater Manchester as a digital city region, but actually to build the new world post-pandemic, and make sure it’s a world that involves all of our people, builds resilience in all of our communities, but also builds the prosperity of this great place.”

Digital City Festival, which is sponsored by Fast and Klaviyo, runs until Friday featuring a broad range of events encompassing digital innovations and specialisms, and the chance to meet local, national and international industry leaders.

There’s still time to register for the central event, Digital City Expo, which provides access to all the event’s talks, Q&As and panels, as well as the chance to meet leading exhibitors. Click here to secure your free spot.


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