Tech City - by Royal Appointment


Prince Andrew on the Royal Family's use of modern technology

Later today Britain's newest city gets a Royal visit. It is a place that is still known to many as Silicon Roundabout but two years ago the government dubbed the stretch of London inhabited by small technology firms around the Old Street roundabout Tech City.

Ask most people - even Londoners - what that means and I suspect you will get quizzical looks. But a Royal visit should help to put the tech cluster on the map, and perhaps make the government's ambitions to turn the area into Europe's rival to Silicon Valley look slightly less fanciful.

One Royal has already spent plenty of time visiting the area and getting involved in promoting it. Prince Andrew was supposed to accompany the Queen on today's visit, but now that her engagements have been cancelled for the rest of the week, he will be going alone.

So yesterday I went to Buckingham Palace to interview the Duke of York about the hi-tech cluster - and about his family's use of technology.

His staff had warned me that he was more "techie" than I might have expected, and that proved to be the case. Off camera, we chatted about the merits of various mobile operating systems, and what worked best in a BYOD - Bring Your Own Device - organisation which is apparently what the Palace is becoming.

Then in our interview Prince Andrew told me that the Royal family acted as "the early adoption gang", trying out new technology for the Buckingham Place IT department: "We are very fortunate, we hear about, we go and visit, we see new technology and we see new opportunities and we bring them back and go OK let's see how we can apply this. "

He said the family were enthusiastic users of Apple's iPads and all had mobile phones, though there was more caution about social networks. But he revealed that the family did use Yammer - the private social network for organisations which is among the firms he will visit today. "I've used that for seminars and forums I've held here so that people can carry on the conversation afterwards."

As for Tech City itself, the Prince stressed the importance of linking it back into the local community - something critics say is missing: "I've been working very closely with Tech City and Hackney. There is 35% unemployment in 18 to 35 year-olds in that part of London. What I want to do is to try to encourage apprentices to be taken on from the local area." There was, he said a tendency to bring in people with a university education from outside the area. "Not everybody needs a degree to work in this particular sector."

The Prince seems genuinely enthusiastic about helping to boost East London as a centre of hi-tech endeavour. He talked of businesses on the scale of Google or Amazon emerging from Tech City.

So far, however, there is more evidence of American giants like Google, Amazon and Microsoft - owners of Yammer - opening a few small offices in East London rather than home-grown businesses emerging to take them on. Tech City has the royal seal of approval and a healthy marketing budget - now it needs to show it can generate jobs and world-beating businesses.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Regarding Steam, I have to say that I don't really have a problem with it..

    Yes on the whole I have few problems with Steam, but it is another unnecessary form of DRM that does impose some restrictions (not enough chars to go into detail here). The other issue I have with it is that I should have the freedom to trade games in for new titles as I could older DVD based titles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    It's worse than that, there's another reason behind "always online".

    In 1989 the first SimCity was released, you can still play it today if you have a copy.
    In 2013 the new SimCity is released, you can only play this until EA closes the games servers. How long til the next one? 2yrs? 5yrs?

    It's a way of stopping people playing old games and forcing them to buy the latest one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    50. ravenmorpheus2k "plug a royal!!" Absolutely. Smacks more of the re-invention of Andrew Windsor. It really IS that transparent!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    #50 The Simcity problems are due to forcing the game into a format for the DRM to use, and then lying about the game in various regards in order to justify it. There are more things comming out about it.

    Regarding Steam, I have to say that I don't really have a problem with it, considering that it does provide useful services as well as having an offline mode

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    48.Arcid - Indeed. However the latest SimCity is just another in a recent line of "always connected" titles, some having almost as bad problems.

    There is also the increasing proliferation of DRM such as Steam, which many are apathetic about, yet companies are embracing more and more, in "the fight against piracy".

    But hey, why talk about them when you can take the easy route and plug a royal!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    One person who cannot use technology properly is the BBC Numpty who sets the script for the news banner headlines ...

    ...yesterday 5pm evening news bulletein about BBC Paedo Saville showing him sitting in his self-styled throne puffing cigar was subtitled PAPAL ELECTION ...

    ..or was it done on purpose?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    #45 Agreed, as it stands this last week has seen the problems with the release of Simcity, which may not be anything massive on their own, but have large potential implications about how media could be distributed and controlled as connections become reliable. Instead we have an article which boils down to "people who are rich enough can be early adopters"

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    But most of the people reading this will undoubtably have less knowledge and be less qualified too. Look across the entire site, it merely massages popular public opinion (The stereotypes, the language, the fashions, the gadgets) and then injects a little political/corporate interest.

    A "techie" wouldn't just tell people what they want to hear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    This tech city is a joke.

    If they wanted a new tech city, they needed to put it in a place where housing is affordable and business rates are low. Putting it in London is a joke, the vast majority of startups simply cant afford to do business there.

    This countries approach to tech is just bizarre: we could be world leaders yet we undermine ourselves at every opportunity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Simple answer: if you don't like his articles, don't read them.

    No mate that's just a cop out. Yet more apathy, in a country full of apathy.

    RCJ's salary comes out of the licence fee, and as a TV tax payer I would like better for what little I use of the BBC, not low brow tech articles written by a person who by all rights is no more qualified in the area than my mother is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    41. deanarabin "What does a Royal seal of approval amount to...who takes any notice of it, and why?"

    Precious little measurement criteria here. These people will not be challenged and are impervious to enquiry, having exempted themselves from the FOI Act. Unfeasibly, they are patrons of 3000 selected charities. Would that be a criterion when donating? Hardly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    36 @ ravenmorpheus2k - Simple answer: if you don't like his articles, don't read them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    There are literally thousands of highly-skilled, highly-qualified and highly motivated IT graduates working outside of London in jobs which don't best make use of their skills. I'm one and I manage a dozen others like me.

    The problem isn't a lack of graduates or skills, it's a lack of 'career' jobs. Becoming an expert programmer only to see jobs undermined or outsourced is not a career!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    What does a Royal seal of approval amount to anyway? Who takes any notice of it, and why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    35. Keithr "Duke as a retired combat helicopter pilot" How much longer will these unelected worthies live on their abnormal and mostly short 'military service'? It's an attempt at legitimacy surely, enabling deference and spectacle in an otherwise achromatic existence. We need an elected head of state, not constructed exemplars drawn from one stealthy family of taxpayer-funded multi-millionaires.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Scraping the bottom of the barrel the last few days. The closure of TV centre and an article about the royals with no real substance. If the royals want to get involved in technology maybe one of the could take the turing test, wonder if they'd pass...

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    The only technology they understand is using Giant cashpoint machines & the PIN number is YOU! I have to admire his private Jet & his Villa on the west coast of Barbados but not so much his visitors, Will he get a food parcel out of this? He's as much use as a chocolate teapot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Mention IT to an IT professional, and they'll start thinking about servers, infrastructure, coding, etc,
    Mention IT to a teacher, and they'll think of Word, Excel and Photoshop.
    You can't draw a few lines on a map and say "lets make this place a hub for IT industry". We need to be teaching our kids about coding or networking infrastructure at GCSE and A-Level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Reading the comments I see that some are criticising this article.


    I share their views.

    We don't need some middle aged basic end user "writing" articles on "wot the royals think" of technology, how they use it or how they want to promote a small island in a big pond.

    One day, my licence fee will pay for a proper technology correspondent - one who has some qualifications in the field.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Maybe the downbeat comments about Royals and technology should start viewing the Duke as a retired combat helicopter pilot instead of a shelf ornament. His dad has also caught a few people out when they failed to remember he'd been a professional naval officer and was well accustomed to taking advantage of new technologies.


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