ARTIFICIAL Intelligence and robotics could "major growth areas" for Bradford in the coming years - a meeting has heard.

And during the same discussion it was argued that access to WiFi needs to be as easy as access to water to reduce inequality in the District.

Members of the Bradford and Airedale Wellbeing Board, made up of representatives from Bradford Council, local health services, charities, police and figures such as the Bishop of Bradford, met in City Hall yesterday to discuss a proposed new Digital Strategy for Bradford.

They were told Bradford could be at the forefront of new digital technology, and that internet access was now becoming so important that getting online needs to be as easy as switching on a tap.

Paul Wilson, Digital SME at the Council and who has helped develop the strategy, said: "There is already good work going on in the District, but we need to join the dots and identify any gaps.

"We need to be loud and proud about the work we already do in Bradford, as well as letting people know what we're planning to do.

"We need to build capability in new technology and act to improve competitiveness. We need to look at AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics, these could be major growth areas for the region. We have to look at how we can support business's ambitions to adapt to this new tech."

He said a "technology innovation centre" could be set up in Bradford, and they were currently working on an outline case for such a centre. It would act as a "living lab" where prototypes could be created and new technological ideas developed.

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He added: "More work will be done on this plan in the coming weeks and months."

Later in the meeting he said that this would likely be an online centre, although if Bradford were to attract more investment it could be developed as a physical centre.

An AI centre of excellence should also be set up in the District to "allow Bradford to become a UK leader on the development and use of trustworthy, ethical and inclusive AI."

Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: "We are a young city and we need to create the right environment for people to be able to use their skills and talent."

However, Mr Wilson said there were still areas of Bradford that were not up to current digital standards. He said: "There are still parts of the District with poor connectivity, that in itself is one of the big challenges.

"Covid showed us that there is a large section of communities that are digitally excluded."

He said lack of internet access can leave people excluded from education, social contact and vital employment opportunities.

Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford Council, said: "It might be a case that a child has to borrow his mum's phone to do his homework - that's the challenge we have to tackle.

"People expect when they turn on a tap for water to come out. If we want to survive and thrive as a District then access to the internet needs to be like turning on a tap. That is how critical the internet now is to our lives."

Cllr Hinchcliffe added: "There is a generation that will need access to WiFi in order to get the equal opportunities they deserve."

The board endorsed the digital strategy, and heard that it will be officially launched in the coming months.