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

Game on - e-sports takes off in the UK

Video game competitions, watched by audiences in stadiums and on TV, are taking off in Britain.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Rory


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    There is high unemployment around hackney because the country got rid of manufacturing
    Was Hackney a big manufacturing area?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    71. Bruno Wilson "Just face it, they are hear [sic] and you are not going to change it!"

    Of course we can change it. Or are you suggesting this is not a democracy - and one powerful, but unremarkable family expects to be funded, privileged and to rule in perpetuity? Perhaps yours is a programmed council of despair Bruno, in which everything is inevitable and every hill is too steep to climb?

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Not only is this an uninteresting topic for an article,
    but it is an uninteresting article to comment on.

    since most of the comments are off topic, it seems many people agree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I suppose that it was only to be expected, instead of commenting on the article/topic in question - the wannabes are revolting and whingeing about the monarchy!

    Just face it, they are hear and you are not going to change it!

    Great that royals are using tech - I hope that they are also worrying about misuse!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    @6 Sean

    “ Maybe they can look on the internet and see the sh** that's happening in our country”

    Or you could look at the real world and realise things are pretty damned good at the moment, apart from the middle class wingers moaning because somebody is richer than them

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    How wonderful it must be to have access to the latest and greatest tech without having worry about the cost. I wish I could have the same privileges. However, I have to do many honest days work and save up like the rest of us mere mortals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Prince Andrew... what a fantastic ambassador for the Royal Family....

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I've always dreamed of the royal family being more interested in science, or some of them even becoming scientists- imagine what a boost to science in this country that would be. Them being into tech is at least a step in the right direction. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    64. Bubba. Yes, it beggars belief that anyone who believes that he and his family are biologically programmed to rule and be deferred to in society, and to live a life of publicly-funded privileged, should be taken seriously at all - let alone be interviewed by the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Was the link 'Wired Windsors'? A typo surely.

    Should it not have been 'Weird Windsors'? More fitting perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    @Glamorgan9560 - "He's about as useful as a chocolate teapot"

    Yes, but he is genetically suited for his role, he's said as much himself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Who cares.............

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    We've got possibly the biggest games publisher selling a product that the user can never actually "own" and which can be rendered useless at a whim, you don't even own your save game files (they're cloud based too), it's a bigger scam than horse meat scandal and yet we're talking about bleedin roundabouts......

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    The British Empire occurred when the BBC did not exist.

    The heyday of British Computing was 40 years ago when the legacy of the WW2 computing division and great intellectuals like Bertrand Russell were on TV, and it was seeping into the general population

    Pioneers grow under certain conditions.

    The conditions we have today are garbage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Do you really mean to say that Tech City will now be on the map because of a royal visit?

    For those who are interested and indeed invest money and human resources into the various concepts that make up places like Tech City, they wouldn't really need reminding of its existence, let alone from non persona's from the royal family. What really is the point in that? . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    There is high unemployment around hackney because the country got rid of manufacturing and left a generation very useful in semi skilled jobs out in the cold. There are bright kids who will understand maths, logic, computation, and there are kids who will work well with their hands who you just couldn't teach that to. Unfortunately the latter are being conned into believing they can be the former.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Yet another function of the Windsors, testing new technology, how do we cope without them? More like how would they cope if they were to cease feeding off the talent of others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    You haven't been able to trade in old PC games for a very long time... ---

    I know, but I should at least have the freedom to try, also Steam are branching out into the console market. Similar online distribution methods are being ventured into by other companies.

    It doesn't take a genius to see where the 2nd hand console games market is heading, and apathy doesn't help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    @53.MemoryisRAM - Yes I completely agree, but they won't admit it.

    There are also other practices they'd rather not admit to (but stated in EULA's because they have to be), like most games are not actually owned but used on a licence.

    How many people are actually aware they don't own the software they have paid for?

    I can't think of many other industries that get away with such practices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    @54. ravenmorpheus2k

    You haven't been able to trade in old PC games for a very long time... (I don't remember ever having been able to but maybe you could at some point)


Page 1 of 4



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.