We spoke with Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council – Premier Sponsors of the Festival – to find out more about what Leeds City Council expect the northern digital sector to look in the wake of Covid-19, and the importance of digital transformation for recovery.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role within Leeds City Council.
Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake.
Why did Leeds City Council decide to get involved with Leeds Digital Festival?
The digital festival is a key highlight in the annual Leeds calendar of events and aligns well with our ambition as a city that continues to nurture brilliant diversity and offer culturally rich experiences whilst also ensuring we have digitally enlightened and adept people to address the skills needed.
Collaboration is “hard-wired” into the way we do business here in Leeds. We believe that the best, most inclusive answers are those that are arrived at by bringing people together to extract a brilliant diversity of perspective and experience and the Digital Festival fosters and showcases some of the very best examples of this.
What makes the digital sector here in Leeds different from the rest?
We have recently been able to attract and provide a home to some of the best and most innovative businesses of the digital age. Channel 4 have chosen to come to Leeds, joining Sky and many others in our booming and exciting media, digital film, gaming and creative sector.
We have technology start-ups, especially in HealthTech and FinTech, opening here every week and Leeds is now home to a number of very exciting new digital businesses.
All of this and more is why Leeds is the fastest growing digital economy outside London and a great place to be based for any business. Our hope and plan is to make Leeds 100% Digital. That means a Leeds in which everyone has a real choice to participate in and benefit from our digital economy. We want a Leeds that delivers inclusive growth for everyone, a compassionate city which is kind-hearted and welcoming.
What changes do you expect to see in the future for the northern digital sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The pandemic undoubtedly triggered a massive demand for digital across all areas of businesses and sectors.
A real importance and speed has been placed on digitally transforming our places of work and education to be able to operate effectively. Those companies able to use technology or work with and invest in digital companies to keep going and rethink their business model for the future by fast-tracking digital transformation will be the ones staying ahead of the competition. An even heavier reliance on our digital tech sector will certainly see new companies coming forward, but also our well established tech companies will be coming forward with new solutions. There will be a real focus on closing the gap between talent supply and demand and future proofing the business –this is not necessarily a new idea, but something that the pandemic has accelerated the need for focus on.