Steering the Way towards a Hi-Tech Future; Phil Woodhead, Sector Champion for the ICT/ Multimedia Industry, Outlines the Steps Being Taken to Bring More Information Communication Technology to the Region

Article excerpt

LAST time I spoke to the Daily Post, I touched on the technology which will revolutionise the way we work and live our lives going forward. I would now like to talk about what Merseyside has put in place to make that vision a reality.

Merseyside is buzzing with successful ICT companies. Businesses outside the North West are recognising the positive impact the region is having on ICT and, in turn, investment within Merseyside is increasing.

In order to remain competitive and at the leading edge, Merseyside needs to bring all ICT companies together, and in order to do that we are setting up a strategic group, which will steer the development of ICT on Merseyside. We want to bring together, for example, councils so that they can learn from each other and share best practice, especially in the area of developing communities' access to ICT.

By sharing information, the plan is to establish a winning strategy and implement it on a larger scale for the benefit of everyone.

So, our first step is to create a steering group or strategic team. The group will be led by Steve Gallagher, Chief Executive of Knowsley, and we are in the process of deciding on which areas of ICT and the business community will be represented.

Currently we are looking at individuals from local authorities, the private sector, the users, the universities and local communities. We need a wide spectrum of professionals to ensure we cover all areas.

Those who join the steering group will be of a senior level and leading lights in their fields.

The initial meeting will take place in January 2002, and the steering group's first task will be to carry out an audit on everything we are currently doing on Merseyside to ensure we are at the forefront of ICT, not only in our own region but also throughout the UK. Once we have established where we are, the steering group will then create a strategic plan incorporating ideas on how we can move things forward in a productive and imaginative way.

When considering the way forward, there are a number of issues which need addressing. These include:

Developing the way ICT is used Developing the industry to be able to deliver against those requirements Developing the skills to support it Developing communities By looking at each one separately and then amalgamating our findings, we can create an overall picture which will help us to determine the most constructive route going forward.

Currently there are a number of industry clusters using the latest technology to enhance and improve their day-to-day operations. The automotive industry is one such example. Automotive companies have developed their own electronic community so they are linked together sharing best practice. The ICT industry itself will be launching an ICT web site in January next year, where more than 700 companies will be connected, creating increased communication between cutting edge technology providers.

In addition, by working closely with the life sciences sector, including Biotec Pharmaceuticals, local ICT companies are working to develop a system to link the medical industry electronically.

Once we've got those areas up and running successfully, we can use their experience to establish a workable model. Working with sector champions such as Creative Arts, Aerospace and Environmental Technologies we can develop still further communication technology links throughout the region.

Initially we will build these effective industry communities within Merseyside but in the long-term they will have links to other communities in the North West, the UK and indeed the rest of the world.

Once we've reached the global marketplace the advantages will be astronomical, particularly in areas such as the supply chains.

In order to deliver these state-ofthe-art technologies we need to develop the industry. On Merseyside we have large number of relatively small companies, each one providing an invaluable contribution to ICT. …