A new digital chapter for Leeds has begun with the launch of free Wi-Fi at the city’s central library.
Alongside Leeds Art Gallery, the library is one of two pilot sites for an ambitious city-wide programme which will see free Wi-Fi available at 103 council-owned public buildings.
Other venues will include local libraries, leisure centres and the City Museum, with public internet expected to be available at those sites in the New Year.
Free access in libraries and other council buildings will allow the public to use their own devices to surf the web using Wi-Fi enabled smart phones, tablets and laptops.
It will also help to improve the experience for visitors to museums and galleries, hopefully making tours more interactive.
It comes as proposals setting out Leeds’ ambitions to maximise its full potential as a ‘Smart City’ are set to be discussed by senior councillors next week.
As part of a report submitted to Leeds City Council’s executive board this Wednesday, councillors will consider how the city plans to bring together and use technology to improve the lives of residents and boost economic growth.
It follows a number of steps taken since the creation of a small designated council Smart Cities team in January 2014, whose achievements include the Wi-Fi boost to public buildings and the development of Leeds Data Mill, which provides a home for a wealth of information taken from across the city.
The report recommends the Smart Cities team work with health and wellbeing partners to improve information sharing and suggests Leeds should also aspire to become the ‘Best City’ in deriving the value from data, with work by data scientists being used to influence new policy to meet the needs of the city.
The council is set to allocate a £150k Capital Innovation Fund to support its Smart City projects.
A recent Arup study estimated that Smart City Services have a potential value to the UK economy of $40bn by 2025.
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for digital and creative technologies, culture and skills said: “It is absolutely vital that we ensure Leeds is ready and able to take full advantage of the ever-changing opportunities that are available to us in the digital age.
“The work we have already undertaken through our Smart Cities team has played an important role in informing how through digital technologies we can improve our local services, engage more with local residents and boost connectivity and economic growth. As part of this paper to the executive board which I hope will be supported by members, we have set out how we plan as a council to take forward our Smart Cities programme in the future.”