Manchester is set to enhance “digital inclusivity” by offering free city-wide Wi-Fi through a network of advertising screens, according to a local councillor. The initiative, known as the Manchester Digital City strategy, will involve equipping existing Community Information Panels (CIPs) with internet access.
These 22 screens will not only provide Wi-Fi connectivity but also display emergency messages and gather data on city footfall. The integration of internet capabilities into the CIPs aligns with Manchester’s objective of ensuring “digital connectivity” throughout the city and preventing anyone from being left behind.
To facilitate data collection, the CIPs will be equipped with motion sensors capable of measuring footfall and tracking the direction of travel. This information will be used to analyze travel patterns and inform proposed walking and cycling plans as part of Manchester’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2038. The council aims to utilize this data to enhance planning across various services.
Additionally, the CIPs will have the capability to display vital messages as needed. This feature can prove crucial in emergency situations, allowing the council to swiftly and efficiently communicate essential information to the public. Assistant Chief Constable Wasim Chaudhry of Greater Manchester Police emphasized the screens’ ability to disseminate clear and visible messages, contributing to a multi-agency response focused on saving lives and mitigating further harm during emergencies.
JCDecaux, the company responsible for providing the screens, assured that data collection would comply with data protection laws and maintain anonymity.
By implementing this city-wide Wi-Fi initiative, Manchester aims to bridge the digital divide, foster inclusivity, and harness data-driven insights to optimize urban planning and emergency response systems.