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Croydon 'needs free Wi-Fi in public places and coding classes in every primary school' to be European tech city
Coding classes in every primary school and free Wi-Fi in public places form part of ambitious plans to make Croydon one of Europe's key technology hubs.
Broadbrand upgrades and digital education are needed for the town to fulfil its potential and be "known throughout Europe", according to the council's new cabinet member for economic development.
Internet users should be able to browse the web in the borough's parks said Councillor Toni Letts, speaking at Croydon Tech City's inaugural conference on Friday.
She added: "If you go to any other European city, say Paris or Amsterdam, you can get free Wi-Fi sitting in public places.
"You could sit in the park and get free Wi-Fi. I think that is required. I don't think that's a big ask.
"You are fine when you are at home or in a residential areas, but when you get into the town centre it is not fast enough.
Coun Toni Letts speaking at Croydon Tech City's summit on Friday
"If we want to call ourselves the digital capital of London, which is my dream, and we certainly want to be a European city, we do have to think about being a digital city by having the right infrastructure.
"It is about fibre-optic cabling, the upload and download speed, and the Wi-Fi availability. We need to work with developers on that."
Coun Letts said Croydon Council would support Croydon Tech City's initiative to create coding clubs in primary schools to equip children with skills for the digital economy.
She said: "Croydon Tech City has led on this. It is amazing what children can do by learning to code."
She added: "When I first arrived in Croydon in the 1970s it was a happening place. It was known as Little Manhattan and it was groovy. I’m feeling that buzz again and it is people like Croydon Tech City that are part of that buzz.
"A successful economic climate and a mixed economy is a key ambition for this vibrant part of London because it benefits the whole borough."
Jo Negrini, the council's director of regeneration and environment, warned developers, business and Croydon Council would have to work together to create space for start-ups to succeed.
She said: "The challenge is that our affordability is attracting business but we have to make sure we maintain that as land values rise.
"The issue we have got is that Emerald House was bought for £4.3million last November and sold for £10million last week. That’s how quickly values are starting to rise in Croydon.
"We need to work together around the whole question of space because we have all of the other ingredients here. But we need that space so that those businesses can thrive."
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