There is no shortage of statistics that quantify the size of London’s tech industry. London is the fourth largest tech ecosystem in the world and the largest in Europe, with an estimated value of $44bn. In the past five years, the number of digital technology businesses in London has increased by over 12,000, with around 40,000 businesses in the capital at present, according to research from Oxford Economics. A report from CB Insights says that Venture Capital investment into Britain’s technology sector has reached a record high with London-based companies securing 62% of the $3.6bn raised by UK firms in 2015.
However, due to the difficulty of defining what exactly does and doesn’t come under the banner, quantifying the size of London’s contribution to the Tech For Good movement is a much tougher task. And while London is well known for being a hub for tech startups in specific verticals such as fintech and app & software development, there is some debate as to whether the city has made a significant contribution to the the Tech For Good movement. Writing for Tech City News in June 2015, Kirsty Styles asked: “tech for good sounds, well, good on paper, but when it gets down to it, it’s not clear whether London’s techies, leaders or workers, yet buy into good industries, good workplaces or good hiring policies. We may celebrate being better than Silicon Valley on areas like diversity, but that’s hardly good, is it?”
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But Paul Miller, Partner at Bethnal Green Ventures, believes that London is the Tech for Good capital of the world. Writing in the Huffington Post, he outlines why the capital city is so important to the movement, citing the tendency in the US for large individual donors to dominate philanthropic capital.
“Europe’s more comfortable relationship with the welfare state made it a stronger place to innovate around social issues. London is a unique city where finance, technology and social policy work side by side – which puts it in a perfect position to take advantage of the Tech For Good movement,” Miller wrote.
The Nominet Trust’s NT100 list supports Miller’s assertion that London is leading the way in the Tech For Good movement, with 20 startups from the capital making the 2015 list, up from 19 in 2014. Compare this to San Francisco’s 15 in 2015 and 13 in 2014.
“As one of the world’s most vibrant, forward thinking cities London should play a big part in the Tech For Good movement. Its diverse population, deep expertise and rich history all feeds into an innovation melting pot which has developed some of the world’s most impactful and inspiring tech solutions. London should be a beacon of good practice and the benchmark of how tech can be used for good, not only in the UK, but right across the globe,” said Chris Howroyd, Service Development Director at SH:24.
Juan Guerra, fintech entrepreneur and founder of StudentFunder, said: “London has huge potential to generate disruptions in financial services, education, healthcare and energy, not least because of its privileged access to human capital – knowledge workers, entrepreneurs – as well as venture capital.”
And looking beyond London, the UK has a lot it can be proud of too. A government survey from 2015 found that Britain’s 70,000 social enterprises contribute £24bn to the economy and employ nearly a million people. But while regional and national pride in our contribution to the Tech For Good movement is all very well, it should be recognised that the overall movement has a greater reach – both in terms of those who need help and those who can help.
“Tech For Good is happening across the world, so it is global. Whether it is a ‘global movement’ yet is another matter – this inherently relies on people across continents agreeing some common principles and then committing to use them as a collective network; sharing approaches, learning, outputs and outcomes to maximise impact and optimisation. Local movements, whether they be in man-made cities or hubs should be an integral part of the global movement – a cog in the bigger Tech for Good machine,” SH:24’s Howroyd said.
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