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Mayor of London: Cities Must Ensure the Tech Revolution Is Shaped for the Benefit of Everyone
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Mayor of London: Cities Must Ensure the Tech Revolution Is Shaped for the Benefit of Everyone

Picture of Claire Lancaster
Tech & Entrepreneurship Editor
Updated: 15 March 2018
Speaking at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, used a keynote speech to call on cities and governments around the world ‘to do more to harness the great opportunities of the current tech revolution as well as to mitigate against the growing and significant risks.’

The wide-ranging speech covered social media, the shared economy and the consequences of increased automation.

Mayor Khan argued that more must be done not only to ensure we use new technology and innovation to the benefit of everyone in society, but that businesses and governments must work to prevent employment rights being by-passed and keep more people from feeling left behind by the changing nature of our economies.

He said that some tech companies, including social media platforms and peer-to-peer companies, must take more responsibility for the way they are impacting the world and that no business or industry should ever consider itself above local rules or laws.

The Mayor also argued that ‘evolving economies must mean evolving regulation’ – and that it’s up to politicians to fix things when the regulation is clearly not working or out-of-date.

Criticising politicians and governments for remaining indifferent in the face of massive change, the Mayor said: ‘The onus for change should not just be on tech companies and innovators. One of the biggest problems over the last few years is that politicians and governments have just been passive – sitting on their hands – while the tech revolution has happened around them.

‘There’s been a failure to ensure that our economies and our regulatory structures are prepared and relevant. It must ultimately fall to government – working with tech businesses and leaders – to ensure that this revolution is not detrimental to our long-term progress.

‘There’s been a dereliction of duty on the part of politicians and policymakers to ensure that the rapid growth in technology is utilised and steered in a direction that benefits us all.’

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaking at SXSW 2018 | © Reuters

In London, the government has been clear with Uber that everyone – no matter how big or small – must play by the rules. Least year, Transport for London (TfL) denied the ride-hailing service a London operating licence, a move widely interpreted as a power play in Khan’s battle to get big tech to abde by local regulation.

‘Our economies have always needed new regulations in place to meet the needs of workers and consumers when the environment changes. Evolving economies must mean evolving regulation,’ said the Mayor in his Austin keynote.

‘Rather than blaming companies for innovating ahead of regulation, politicians must fix things when the regulation is out-of-date. The question now for governments – or traditional sectors – should not be how we slow down innovation in its tracks – because we can’t. And we shouldn’t. It should be how we mitigate against the potentially negative impacts of disruption. And – more than that – how we can harness the very same technologies to drive up standards and to create more just and equal societies.’

Speaking about the ways cities like London are working to ensure the tech revolution benefits everyone, the Mayor said: ‘In this fast-paced change, city government can cope better with digital disruption, turning technological upheavals to our advantage.’

Going forward, London plans to ‘utilise data to transform the way public services are delivered, making them more accessible, efficient and responsive; and find the best ways to take advantage of the opportunities AI and automation could bring whilst also investing in education to ensure Londoners have the digital skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.’

The city has already set up an online hate crime hub – the first of its kind in Europe – to work with social media companies and is committed to ‘breaking down the barriers that still exist for girls and women to reach their potential – not only in the tech sector, but in every part of our society,’ with the launch of a new campaign called Behind Every Great City.

Mayor Khan said that his message to other cities and to global tech leaders is that, collectively, we must do more to champion greater inclusivity within in the tech community.

‘It’s not only the right thing to do, evidence shows that it’s good for business too.’