When I unveiled the council’s 16 pledges for 2016 in February, I said that one of our aims was to put Tameside in the best position to benefit from the technology and businesses of the future. One of the most important things we need to do to achieve this is make sure that the physical infrastructure and technology is in place to support the people and businesses that want to step into this brave new world.
That’s why I’m happy to report that by the autumn our plan to roll out Wi-Fi to all nine of our town centres will be complete. The Smart Wireless Internet for Tameside – or SWIFT network for short – will provide free, fast and easy internet access to residents and businesses in the hearts of our towns. It will be one of the most extensive, comprehensive public Wi-Fi networks in the UK outside of our major cities.
The SWIFT network will also allow our partners and local businesses to work with us to get the maximum benefit out of it in a way that would never have been possible before. To give you just a few examples; many of our colleges and health providers are exploring ways to link up the SWIFT network to their own Wi-Fi networks, offering seamless access to students, staff and patients. Purple Wi-Fi will be using the network to assist us in delivering our “Every Child a Coder” pledge, giving our children the skills they need to succeed in the high-technology economy. The fibre that the SWIFT network will be run on will also connect up to the renovated Ashton Old Baths, providing connectivity to the businesses based there.
We expect the SWIFT network to release large dividends in future jobs and business opportunities. Much of the infrastructure required is already in place from projects such as the Metrolink extension. The major work will be in setting up the access points for the network, but even here we have found a solution which ties seamlessly into other projects. The access points for the SWIFT network will be mounted in the posts of the LED street lights we are rolling out across the borough, which will themselves cut running costs and reduce Tameside’s carbon footprint.
This is a low-cost, low-risk investment in the technology of the future. It will release huge economic and social benefits by giving any businesses and residents who wants to access the internet in our town centres the ability to do so free of charge. Most of all, it’s a big step on the road to building a Tameside ready for the economy of the 21st century.