I moved to London from Ireland in 2005 at the dying end of the Celtic Tiger and just before the seismic economic shocks really hit. Over the course of the successive years I've had many occasions to thank London for the wonderful city that it is. I've met the most incredible people and through them stretched myself intellectually and creatively. I've had the opportunity to be at the forefront of the global emergent open data movement and I've been given the most amazing career opportunities that would never have been there for me in Ireland. I've relished its wonderful architecture and fantastic culture and I've seen my son grow from boy to man. But now its time for a new chapter which is why I'm moving to Manchester to be part of a city that is exploring things that have become more important to me over time. Over those London years I've seen the adoption of technology accelerate to the point where it is ubiquitous in so any peoples lives. While I've marveled at the amazing businesses have emerged from the ever increasing mountains of data that we are all producing, somewhere along the line different questions have started to niggle at the corner of my mind. I've tried to articulate those questions in a series of blogs and talks under the title of #Technoethics but in short a key question for me is to whom are the benefits of the digital economy really accruing?
When we talk about the "sharing economy" what do we really mean? Because it's not really sharing when vast amounts of capital benefit the tiny few at the top of the technology triangle. And what of the future of work with the unstoppable rise of robotics and automation? Those who mourn for the days of our manufacturing past believing that a vote to leave the EU might usher it back are trying to solve the wrong problem. We are in fact looking at a future where much of our labour will not be required at all - and how do we plan for that? This is not a purely economic question as to how people will provide for themselves. When meaningful, work provides a powerful sense of social reinforcement and identity , that's part of the social glue that keeps society together.
We need to move away from a winner takes all mentality in the digital economy and look to the redistribution of digital dividends. We need new generations of digital founders who are designing equity and ethics into the DNA of their businesses. We need to move from platform capitalism to what Trebor Scholz calls platform cooperativism and we need to co-create our future.
What happenstance then that Mike Bracken and other amazing former colleagues from Government Digital Service have started a new digital transformation journey with the Co Op in Manchester. With a vision to "re-create the Co Operative for a digital era and demonstrate a different way of doing business for an increasingly connected community". That seemed to me the perfect place to explore some of my niggling questions further in the company of colleagues inspired to make a real difference to society.
So my husband Tony and I are leaving London and moving to Manchester and that's where you'll find me mostly. While working with Co Op I'll also continue with my commitments to the EY Women Fast Forward programme and with my NED commitments to TransportAPI and Sh:24 and of course in my role as the Chairperson of the Open Data Governance Board in Ireland. I'm looking forward to learning about all the great things that Manchester has to offer (loving getting the tram to work!) and also being able to work more closely with my fellow Board Members in Future Everything.
So if you are in Manchester and want to meet to talk tech, data and ethics please get in touch. I'm looking forward to lots of conversations in the coming months and to hearing views about how Co Op can both make its own unique contribution while being a good neighbour and friend to the existing technology community.