Conservative party mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has called on tech-savvy Londoners to help prevent online radicalisation. The Tory candidate said that the tech sector could be a vital part of the government's plans to prevent terrorism attacks.
"One problem the tech sector can really help to solve is dealing with the threat of terror," Goldsmith said at a tech hustings for mayoral candidates.
Goldsmith told London's tech elite that the government is accepting the help of digitally savvy companies and individuals to help detect online acts of radicalisation and prevent potential terror threats. "You are better placed than anyone else in the world to understand and disrupt online parts to radicalisation, something the authorities, if we're honest about it, are really struggling with," he told the audience.
According to the polls, Goldsmith's Labour rival, Sadiq Khan is well ahead of the Tory MP in the mayoral race. Khan, Goldsmith UKIP candidate Peter Whittle, Lib Dem hopeful Caroline Pidgeon and Green Party candidate Sian Berry are the main people running to succeed Boris Johnson. They all faced a grilling by tech entrepreneurs and experts at the event in Here East, Stratford.
Organiser Tech Advocates London, together with Tech UK and the Centre for London, had set out a tech manifesto with recommendations for the new mayor to put technology at the heart of London ahead of the hustings. Among the recommendations was the advice to appoint a Chief Digital Officer for London, something all candidates pledged to do.
Apart from funding, diversity and sustainability, the candidates were asked about cyber security issues in London. Goldsmith was also grilled on his party's controversial Snooper's Charter bill, which would require internet service and roaming providers to keep customers' internet records.
"My starting point is that the government needs to be able to have the tools and use the tools it needs in order to keep us safe," said Goldsmith, defending the charter – officially called the Investigative Powers Bill. "The world has never been more dangerous, we've never had a bigger threat of terrorism than we've had today."
Pidgeon, who is running fourth in the bid for the mayoral seat, was the only other candidate who spoke about the issue of cybersecurity. The Lib Dem politician said it is vital for the country to work together with city police on the issues.
Organiser Tech Advocates London, Tech UK and Centre for London had pushed the candidates to be "bold" on Tier 2 visas to fill the tech skills gap in their tech manifesto. Across the board, the candidates said they were excited about the manifesto and keen to put technology at the centre of London's economy.
Goldsmith's main competitor Khan said that he had already made pledges reflecting many of the recommendations in the manifesto. The Labour MP for Tooting said that technology will soon stand beside finance "as a central driver of London's economy".
"If elected I will appoint a Chief Digital Officer," Khan said. "I would personally work with them to devise a London plan that would include an Open Data Charter, planning regulation that requires digital infrastructure and greater access to Tier 2 Visas to bring even more tech talent to London."