Greater Manchester digital year review 

2021 has been another strange year for us all, it has seen many changes to our everyday lives as the way we work and live continues to change and evolve. The digital sector has continued to grow as it has rapidly responded and adapted to these changes.  The pace of change has been massive and continues to be, but not everyone is comfortable with it.   

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This year, we have seen the Greater Manchester digital sector grow from strength to strength, with stronger collaboration and partnership working at the heart of these developments. From the Greater Manchester Cyber Ecosystem to the Greater Manchester Digital Inclusion Taskforce, we have continued to work together to ensure that everyone in Greater Manchester, whatever their age, location or situation, can benefit from the opportunities digital brings. 

2021 has been another busy year for the Greater Manchester digital sector. It has been a year of rapid transformation, development and innovation and you can read more about this year’s milestones and achievements in the year review story below.  


Relaunching the Greater Manchester Tech Fund to support disadvantaged young people 

In January, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) launched phase two of the Greater Manchester Technology Fund as an emergency response to support disadvantaged young people learning from home, following the lockdown announcement and immediate closure of schools and colleges. 

Following the launch of phase two of the fund, GMCA teamed up with the Manchester Evening News and Business in the Community (BITC) to hold a Digital Donation Day on Friday 22nd January to encourage businesses and individuals to support the Greater Manchester Technology Fund. 

The M.E.N Digital Donation Day raised £188,600 in donations of funds, new tech data packages and used device donations for the GM Tech Fund, to help digitally excluded young people across Greater Manchester. 

To date the Tech Fund has supported over 3,527 digitally excluded young people and 132 schools and colleges with the device and connectivity needed to get online. The Greater Manchester Tech Fund has now transitioned from an emergency response supporting young learners whilst schools were closed, to a long-term support scheme to help tackle digital exclusion in communities across Greater Manchester. 


Greater Manchester digital infrastructure investment announces £12m economic benefit in first year 

Hundreds of public sites across Greater Manchester are now connected to next-generation digital infrastructure after the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Network rollout has been substantially completed, delivering an economic boost already worth nearly £12m. 

In early 2020, Greater Manchester announced its partnership with Virgin Media Business to deliver fibre optic connectivity to public sector sites throughout the city-region. 

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, with work due to start as the UK’s first national lockdown was announced, rapid progress was made, and a report shows significant local economic benefits of the work with £11.8m of overall local economic value (direct and indirect) for year one.  

Virgin Media Business made several bold social value investments and have continued to deliver on these despite the challenges of Covid-19. This includes helping establish the Greater Manchester Technology Fund and through Virgin Media Business staff completing annual volunteer days to support several local initiatives. 


Digital City Festival returned 

In March, Digital City Festival returned with a twist, the usual festival instead took shape as a two weeklong online event. As keynote sponsors of the festival, we hosted two events during the fortnight: Fixing the digital divide in Greater Manchester and beyond! and Cyber security and a global pandemic. The events weren’t simply the standard Zoom/Teams, instead events were filmed in a socially distanced studio. 


New digital skills training opportunities launched in Greater Manchester 

Later in March, we were pleased to launch another round of the Fast Track Digital Workforce Fund, offering a series of free digital skills training bootcamps for Greater Manchester residents. 

These flexible programmes were funded by the Department for Education Digital Bootcamps to fast track under-employed and unemployed residents into the industry’s most in demand jobs including Software Development and Cloud Engineering. 

The GMCA and Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership (LDSP) announced the four projects successful in receiving funding were: Your Journey through Tech: Dev-Ops Upskill’ from Tech Returners, Master: Coding from Code Nation, The IN4.0 Talent Academy and NorthCoders Diversity Scholarship. 


Greater Manchester sought tender for GM One Network project 

In May, GMCA announced plans to develop GM One Network, a single active network infrastructure across a significant number of Greater Manchester’s public sector organisations, enabling network services across the region to be provided more efficiently, securely, and flexibly. 

In order to deliver this programme, GMCA went out to tender for an organisation to become the supplier for the GM One Network. An opportunity for an organisation to be involved in an exciting programme with the potential to elevate Greater Manchester’s digital aspirations by laying the foundations for a transformation enabler across the region.  


Mayor of Greater Manchester announces bold ambition to help get residents online 

Following his re-election in May, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham announced ambitions for Greater Manchester to become one of the first city-regions in the world to equip all under-25s, over-75s and disabled people with the skills, connectivity and technology to get online. 

As part of this new ambition, the Mayor has established a Digital Inclusion Action Network to lead targeted action to combat digital exclusion within these target groups in Greater Manchester.  

The action network was set up to work closely with the Greater Manchester Digital Inclusion Taskforce and enable the Mayor to work in collaboration with businesses, local authorities, voluntary and charitable organisations to drive forward this ambition.  


New system launched to enhance support for vulnerable individuals across Greater Manchester 

During the summer a new system was launched to support those who are experiencing, or are at risk of, rough sleeping in Greater Manchester, through the digitisation of an existing case management system used by the region’s A Bed Every Night (ABEN) scheme. 

The system streamlines data used by professionals working across the ABEN service, providing timely information to enable targeted support to individuals. The digitisation enhance’s the current user experience, by providing a common service that is intuitive and easy to use. 

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) commissioned Real Systems to build the new database. Real Systems, which is part of the leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s, specialise in building and managing database systems for local authorities and charities in the homelessness sector. 


Month long digital campaign, Digitober returned for second year 

Back for the second year, throughout October we delivered Digitober, a whole month dedicated to creating and sharing content that celebrates Greater Manchester’s digital sector and how we are a city-region doing digital differently.  

As we continue to develop Greater Manchester as a world-leading digital city region, with an ongoing commitment to taking an open, innovative and connective approach to delivering that ambition, we will ensure our digital city-region is well celebrated and showcased. Digitober is one of the ways we achieve these ambitions. 

Throughout the month we shared blogs and case studies from wide range of organisations including TalkTalk, Wigan Council, Huawei and Manchester Digital. There was also lots of events, videos and news shared across the month.


Celebrated milestones in Greater Manchester’s cyber ecosystem 

We worked with partners across Greater Manchester’s cyber ecosystem to produce and share a timeline showcasing fantastic sector progress and growth. This year that included the creation of international partnerships between Greater Manchester and North Rhine Westphalia, consortium appointed to the GM Digital Security Innovation Hub, launch of the University of Manchester Centre for Digital Trust and Society, inauguration of HOST Labs and HOST Cyber launched plus the GM Cyber Resilience Centre rebranded as North West Cyber Resilience Centre and more! 


Greater Manchester Digital Inclusion Agenda Celebrates One Year Anniversary 

In October 2020, the GMCA launched the Greater Manchester Digital Inclusion Agenda and set our ambition to become a 100% digitally enabled city-region. To mark one year since the agenda launched a video was produced to celebrate some of the key pieces of work achieved to date. 

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A new look Digital Inclusion Agenda webpage was also produced featuring blogs and case studies from Digital Inclusion Taskforce members to amplify and showcase the work organisations across Greater Manchester are doing to support residents to get online. Visit the Digital Inclusion Agenda webpage 


National recognition for technology helping parents and carers in Greater Manchester access support 

On Thursday 11th November at The Shard, London, team behind the Greater Manchester’s Early Years Application were delighted to be announced as winners at the Digital leaders 100 Awards. The Greater Manchester Early Years Application digitises early years assessments for children aged 0 to 2.5 years. 

The awards ceremony celebrated the teams and individuals who are working hard behind the scenes to secure the UK’s Digital Transformation. Following a public vote and presentation to a panel of judges the Early Years App (Early Years Integrated Solution) was crowned winner of Digital Public Service Innovation of the Year Award 2021.  

Find out more about the award win 

Looking forward to 2022 

In 2022, we are looking forward to another exciting year for the Greater Manchester digital sector, we will be working hard toward our digital ambitions as a city region. 

In the meantime we would all like to wish you a wonderful festive period and a happy and safe new year.