Digital Didsbury

Manchester City Council have outlined a ten-point plan to make Manchester into a 'Digital City' by 2020.

Their key proposals include:

  • 100% broadband coverage
  • Wi-Fi in all public spaces
  • broadband for businesses
  • coordination between private and public organisations

All of those fall under 'Access and Connectivity', and there are further proposals for engagement, industry, place and leadership.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, says: "Manchester is already a force on the digital world stage, with the city council spearheading innovation in the digital and creative sector, helping build the UK's largest digital economy outside the capital.

"This digital strategy is essential for building on that success and ensuring that Manchester benefits from the potential of improved technologies, and to make sure that our residents are in the best position possible to take advantage of the jobs created as a result."

Dealing with Digital Disaster

I'm a digital professional, and I have been since 2006. And I'd have to say, Manchester's already pretty well covered when it comes to wired and wireless broadband.

For five years I was based in Portland Tower (well, with brief stints assigned to Adfero's South Quay Plaza office in London, and as a home-based worker towards the end of my career there) and we had a few disrupted days, but nothing that stopped us from getting the essentials done.

When the office's internet supply was interrupted - whether due to our own server failure, or a fault with the ISP, or anything else like that - we either decamped to an internet cafe, or headed home to use our own internet connections. Most of our clients won't have noticed anything wrong, because there wasn't anything 'wrong', we were just working with the flexibility and adaptability that the digital age allows.

These days I'm even more flexible as a freelancer - I can work from anywhere, and I have done in the past. I've given presentations at the University of Manchester to undergraduates on the same degree course that I took, then popped round the corner to work the afternoon on a netbook in one of the nearby pubs.

Likewise, I can go for drinks with friends, take my netbook along with me, and still stay in touch with clients, or upload any time-sensitive content. Although, to be fair, I usually try and get any work out of the way before heading out to socialise!

A Digital Diorama of Didsbury

It's not just having a portable computer that allows me to do this - it also depends on the availability of an internet connection.

There's no such thing as 'free' internet really - you'll always have to buy a coffee or a pint - but that's no great hardship, and it irritates me to see people complaining about it. But in Didsbury alone - both West and East - there are plenty of places to log on, as the map below shows.

I have to tip my virtual hat to Didsbury Life for compiling the definitive list of Didsbury Wi-Fi hotspots - their page is an invaluable resource for anyone who needs to know where they can log on if their home connection goes down, so if you're local and looking, head in their direction!

South Manchester is not so much a series of suburbs as a collection of individual villages - Rusholme, Fallowfield, Withington, West and East Didsbury, Chorlton, and so on. The two clusters of placemarkers on the map above represent West Didsbury and Didsbury Village, but Didsbury Life also list Chorlton hotspots and some in the Northern Quarter, in the city centre.

The point is, Manchester is already remarkably well connected through private businesses opening their Wi-Fi connections to the public - we really are a Digital City already.

Dealing from the Digital Deck

I'm not just proud of where I live and work - I genuinely think my career has benefited from it. I've worked for clients I've met in local bars, and for others just down Wilmslow Road who I've met on Twitter, but wouldn't have found without the local connection.

Didsbury is the digital joker in my deck, the wild card that completes my winning hand, alongside my own writing skills and a decent stint of experience in a city-centre agency.

Over the next 8 years, it will be interesting to see whether Manchester City Council can create the same level of opportunity across Manchester as a whole - I may pick up a few more local rivals for new business, if so!