Digital London rocks into the ExCeL

The terms ‘Tech City’ and ‘Silicon Roundabout’ are both the object of derision. Tech companies don’t need to be in close proximity if London has a fully integrated digital infrastructure. Or do they?

Surrounded by the din of aircraft engines taking off from the East London Airport, a burgeoning debate took place last week which gave the UK a chance to ExCeL and make its case to be the prime global location for technology enterprise and innovation. Digital London, the hybrid event where Thought Leaders from the private and public sector, investors and start-ups live networked and debated London’s Olympic year bid to have a successful, connected future.

The inaugural hybrid event lifted the veil upon the East Ends’ substantially botox’d face for 2012. It combined physical exhibition stands with virtual ones as speakers’ videos appeared over the web. Dominic Campbell from FutureGov case in point. It drew attention to London as a key technology long hub before Usain Bolt et al turn London into a sporting carnival during the Summer Games.

With the likes of Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Broadvision divulging their insight on topics such as future innovation, smart infrastructure and development of talent, content was aplenty. This fed into the hands of tech and national writers typing away in the much-appreciated large Wi-Fied support press room.

Note: Event Organisers Houses: Wi-Fi + promise of food + interviews = happy journalists

In total, the event [Positive Marketing ran the events press office] have produced 53 pieces of coverage thus far such as Virgin Media chosen to deliver Wi-Fi to 80 tube stations for Olympics and Open data must not be neglected by local government: Nigel Shadbolt.

Referring to Bolt and his doppelganger Richard Branson, headlines were made and trends ignited at Digital London. Maybe with one eye on appearing in future Virgin adverts, Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s Director of Environment & Digital London in his keynote announced that Virgin Media has been contracted to provide hotspots to 80 Tube stations in time for the Olympics. Mr Ranger wasn’t at all subtle about the announcement first calling the audience to get their devices ready before he let it out. Even with Usain Bolt and Fibre Optic Broadband, Virgin was slow in response and finally confirming one day after the original announcement.

Civil servants were in amicable mood during the event. Tom Loosemoore Deputy Director, Government Digital Service kicked off the event with a well rehearsed quip ‘I am from the Government and we are here to help you’. Will these words come to fruition over measuring and releasing transparent data, or will it end up as mere pettifog, only time will tell?

There it is, not #SXSW yet but the ‘Davos of Tech’ it could well be. We will end with an apt quote from Ray Wang, CEO Constellation Research who tweeted “Good for a first year conference. Will be awesome next year.”

If you did not make it along this year, see the highlights here.

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