Will Westminster Become a Smarter City Through its Digital Academy?
After Westminster City Council unveil its Digital Academy to reduce exclusion, Housing Industry Leaders looks closely at what the Academy will provide and how it will reduce digital exclusion in the UK.

The Digital Academy is a series of initiatives that will run over the coming months to help improve the digital skills of the city’s residents and businesses. in partnership with a range of tech partners, including Microsoft, O2 and Google.

As Westminster pushes to become another addition to the growing list of smart cities, this is the first important step towards this.

The Academy will include a range of events and sessions for students, graduates, business owners and those who feel excluded from the digital world to create a better city for all and empower people to use technology for everyday tasks, as well as foster innovative ideas that will improve the city.

The initiative aims to tackle the digital divide amongst young people as well as elderly people. These two issues are the largest blockades in making Westminster a truly smart city.

Digital divides growing nationally but is it closing regionally?

Overcoming entrenched issues within these demographics will not be easy. Despite this, Westminster will be hiring 9 candidates from diverse backgrounds as part of the Tech Lions Talent Programme; they will be allowed to work within the Council in tech roles and spend time at leading tech companies to supercharge their careers.

Becoming a truly smart city is all about putting the needs of Westminster’s citizens, businesses and communities first

Additionally, the city’s Smart Schools competition will see project partner Microsoft host a day of activities at local schools with inspiring prizes on offer, including experience days at Microsoft’s offices, to encourage young people to explore careers in tech and gain confidence in their digital skills.

For older people within the community, The Academy will focus on tackling digital exclusion. Westminster has already begun to recruit local Digital Ambassadors to take part in their train-the-trainer scheme which will see them go on to help other residents take on digital tasks.

Businesses must come together to build a smart city

Not only is it essential for communities to keep up with the pace of an adapting smart city, but it is also just as vital that businesses aren’t left behind.

With this in mind, the council has partnered with Ontix to provide connectivity at local markets and the Rebel Business School to teach local market traders how to create a presence online to boost their businesses engagement and profit.

These projects will be brought together in an online hub that will work in tandem with community centres to support those looking to improve their digital skills for personal or business growth.

Our Digital Academy does just that – it delivers real, practical support, opens up opportunities that were previously out of reach and give citizens the skills they need to thrive in our connected city

Councillor Paul Swaddle, Cabinet Member for Finance and Smart City at Westminster City Council told Housing Industry Leaders: “Today’s launch of the Digital Academy gives our community opportunities to come together, inspire each other and to learn the digital skills they need to seize every opportunity the city has to offer.”

Highlighting the importance of interconnectivity in the region, he added: “It’s a big step towards making sure that nobody feels excluded from the digital world we live in. This is just the start of a long-term initiative to make Westminster a world-leading Smart City and we hope that we can bring everyone along on this journey to learn together and create a more empowered community in the process.”

Rounding up, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, Aruj Haider said: “We’re thrilled to be kickstarting the Smart City programme with the launch of the Digital Academy.