Latest Updates




News From the DEC Trust

Chairman’s statement:-

Following much deliberation by trustees of DEC Trust over last 12 months it has been decided that given the “digital” ambitions for Southend have been successfully passed to other organisations such as Digital Southend Working Group that as a result we feel DEC Trust as an organisation has gone as far as it can go particularly in fulfilling a catalyst role. However some (former) DEC representatives will continue to engage in supporting Southend’s digital aspirations particularly through leading Digital Southend Working Group.


2020 update re DSWG

We recently represented Southend at the ‘Digital Twin’ event at the Pfizer Discovery Park in Sandwich Kent. With presentations and workshops from organisations including Microsoft, University of Kent, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Innovate UK it was an opportunity to hear about digital tech developments that are transforming healthcare and other sectors through ‘digital twin’ technology, as well as funding and Digital Skills Partnerships (DSPs). A link to the event follow-up information is here:


Following the ‘Digital Twin’ event there was the second South East DSP Steering Group meeting which was also attended by DSWG and Southend Council representatives. At the December 2019 DSWG we had an update from Jim Wilkinson on progress of the DSP which has responsibility for coordinating a strategy to support the drive to improve digital skills across the Essex, Kent and East Sussex. A slide highlighting the 5 priorities is attached to this email.


During the DSP Steering Group it was agreed that the agreed 4 thematic (see attached slide) priorities should be overseen by 4 working groups. These working groups can stay focused with those interested in the specific theme bringing their expertise to the table. I have volunteered for priorities ‘Supporting Schools to ensure students leave with the digital skills they need’ and ‘Basic digital skills for those at risk of exclusion’. On the last point, a presentation by DCMS at the Digital Twin event made it clear that digital exclusion through lack of skills is not only about age – half of the people who have not accessed the internet in the last month are apparently under 60.



We have also collated the responses to the workshop at the last DSWG on the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA) Data Transformation Programme (part of the wider Productivity Strategy for South Essex). It demonstrates interest in the concept of sharing data to improve the productivity of all sectors as well as a clear lack of clarity on the strategy or process for achieving this. This is not particularly surprising at this stage and the feedback has gone to Opportunity South Essex (OSE) who produced the strategy for ASELA. We will follow this up further at the next DSWG.


Following on from the DSWG discussion regarding the Smart Southend strategy and a reflection on the third sector, we have met with SAVS to discuss undertaking some initial research to better understand opportunities and challenges relating to voluntary and community sector organisations. More to follow on this we hope.


2019 update re DSWG  

A further meeting was held in December 2019 updating particularly relating to Southend Council’s digital and smart cities approach. We are pleased that the concept of ‘Connected and Smart’ features as one of 5 themes in a new Southend 2050 Vision published by the Council – detail on what this means for the digital and creative tech sectors locally and smart city aspirations are emerging and will be developed in partnership with the Digital Southend Working Group as the Council recognises that this can not (and should not) be delivered by the Council alone. They are therefore keen to work with local groups and individuals, such as the DWSG to ensure that it is a truly collaborative endeavour, that it meets the needs of residents and local businesses, and that we maximise the skills and expertise that exist across our town. Meanwhile we have had interesting exploratory meetings with the Director of Transformation, the Leader of the Council and CEO and we look forward to hearing more at December’s meeting.


At the ‘Connected and Smart’ themed September Southend Business Partnership Briefing attended by 130+ representatives from across the business community, speakers included Vodafone, CityFibre, C2C and Arriva as well as Southend Council. This demonstrated a continued interest across the board in Southend digital future and the many economic, social and cultural benefits this could bring.


The South East LEP (SELEP) Digital Skills Partnership held its inaugural meeting on the 18th October in London, attended by around 40 representatives from the public, charitable, academic and private sectors to inform the development of a strategy for Essex, Kent and East Sussex. Chaired jointly by Pfizer and the FSB and managed by Jim Wilkinson who has previously presented to the DSWG regarding the Essex Skills Board, representations can be made to inform the Partnership’s priorities by clicking on the following link:

For some basic information about the Digital Skills Partnership see:


Westcliff High School for Girls has become one of 23 schools in England to be awarded official Computer Hub status by the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE). This is great news for Southend and will see the school and its many partners providing support and training for primary and secondary computing teachers across schools in Essex and beyond into Central and East London, with important links to industry and universities. The NCCE was set up in November 2018 by the Department for Education to increase the number of pupils in schools and colleges who study computer science at GCSE, AS and A level, particularly girls and those in disadvantaged areas, and to ensure that there is a strong pipeline of digital skills in England.


Other matters of relevance and note include Olympus celebrating their 50th anniversary operating in Southend. An event was held in September to mark this and the continued presence of a leading global hi-tech business in the Borough is a major economic success story. Also both Southend Tech and the TechCityonSea initiative managed by the Hive in Southend continue to organise successful events – more from these at the next DSWG.


For some interesting reading, the series of papers published by the New Economics Foundation under the heading ‘Power and Accountability in the Digital Economy’ has great relevance to those interested in the concept of Smart Cities, big data and related challenges and opportunities. There is a particular focus on ‘Algorithmic Accountability’ which is something that has been referenced at previous DSWG sessions.


The 6th DSWG (Digital Southend Working Group) chaired by Murray Foster, met on Tuesday 9th October 2018 at The Tickfield Centre, Southend. As part of Southend Borough Council's significant plans relating to Smart Cities including the creation of a Data Warehouse a workshop was held, more specifically on the nature of, benefits, accessibility thereof for potential end-users such as those represented in the DSWG. This is a significant step for the Council, its partners and for Southend, relating as it does to the potential for collaboration utilising Open Data and the benefits this could have for many different civic agendas. The workshop was facilitated by City Science. In addition Dr Javier Andreu-Perez who is a lecturer in Science and Electronic Engineering undertook a presentation giving an overview of the AI research done at Essex University and provided information about UK-wide programs which could also help Southend based businesses to improve competitiveness and innovation though close collaboration with universities and research centres. The CityFibre presentation referenced a new strategic partnership with Vodafone to deliver Gigabit capable full-fibre broadband - the project will see a private investment from CityFibre of at least £35 million into a state-of-the-art digital infrastructure, bringing ultrafast internet connectivity within easy reach of almost every building in the Southend Borough.

Next DSWG meeting date is envisaged to be held within the next 4 months’.

The 5th DSWG (Digital Southend Working Group) chaired by Murray Foster, met on Tuesday 24th April 2018 at The Tickfield Centre, Southend, with over 30 attendees it clearly remains a useful forum for the sharing of knowledge, ideas and projects between key players in the digital and creative tech sectors, academia/education, public and community sectors. A very relevant issue discussed was relating to public data – what data is being used or could be used to help improve services locally, or inform a responsive and smart transport strategy? Who has the data and who else can get hold of it? CISCO talked about their ongoing partnership with Southend Council and how their Kinetic System could support the efficient and smart utilisation and sharing of data as a key part of Southend’s Smart Cities journey. Also discussed what can we learn from CISCO’s experience in other cities. Updates were provided on a range of local and sub-regional initiatives that are providing important space and support for the digital and creative tech sectors here in Southend.

Next DSWG meeting date envisaged to be held within the next 4 month’s time.

The 4th DSWG (Digital Southend Working Group) chaired by Murray Foster, met on Tuesday 21st November at The Hive Enterprise Centre, Southend, evaluating and discussing topics relating to marketing and promotion of Southend as a digital location, also the economic and community benefit of holding hackathons and the potential for creating “pop ups” in high street locations for digital up skilling of general public. All three initiatives were confirmed as worthwhile taking forward by more than 30 organisations in attendance representing each of the 4 separate components within the DEC Trust ‘Quadruple Helix’ strategic approach. Next meeting will be in Q1 2018, date and venue to be advised.

The  3rd  DSWG (Digital Southend Working Group) chaired by Murray Foster, met on Thursday 14th September at the Titchfield Centre,  Southend, evaluating and discussing the topics of the recent House of Lords debate on Digital Skills & Digital Understanding, the Shared Economy, Collaboration and Smart Cities, with particular reference to Southend on Sea. More than 30 organisations were in attendance representing each of the 4 separate components within the DEC Trust  ‘Quadruple Helix’  strategic approach. Next meeting will be in Q4 2017, date and venue to be advised

To support our thinking and to direct the priorities of our work, we have over the last few years collaborated with a range of organisations to undertake projects and research from the public, private and academic sectors.

These include Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria) The University of Essex (Colchester and Southend), Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and YoHa.

Projects have included developing educational opportunities with schools around computing, digital housing hub programme with social housing partners, and sustainable transport mapping.

Our influence:

  • Over the last year, we have continued to engage in various collaborative relationships with a range of organisations including The Cultural Engine CIC, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and University of Essex.

  • We are making a difference to promoting this agenda. And we continue to be recognised within several strategic plans of both Southend-on-Sea Borough Council & Opportunity South Essex (formerly South Essex Growth Partnership) being a federated part of South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Next steps:

  • From research undertaken, initially through the University of Essex Centre for Entrepreneurial Research this highlighted the need for an engaged and effective “quadruple helix” comprising public sector/HE & FE/ private sector/ community. Subsequently recent research undertaken in 2016 through the DEC Trust , identified that the Borough is home to a number of digital and ‘new media’ firms. We believe that this , amongst other sectors, provides a basis for building a strong and resilient digital/new media presence in the locality with the wider benefits this will bring for the area. 

  • We will be bringing together representatives of the “quadruple helix” supported by infrastructure developing within the Borough that could play a key role in supporting the growth of key digital industries and yielding social benefits for our community. This falls into two categories:


  • Physical: Primarily in the form of the new ‘Dark Fibre’ that is being installed across Southend to link up key public sector hubs including all schools, social housing and Council buildings.
  • Support: We will explore the potential for formal support packages for new media organisations, networking concepts to support mutual support and encourage growth in the sector and securing improvement in social outcomes

Both the physical infrastructure and support elements are relevant to Southend Borough Councils ambition to drive ‘Gigabit City’ and ‘Smart City’ growth in both the public and private sectors.

In early March 2017 Southend Business Partnership Executive agreed to form a Digital Southend Working Group, led by DEC Trust and its ‘Chair, Murray Foster. The inaugural meeting was then held in the Civic Centre on 28th March 2017 with more than 30 attendees representing all 4 components of the Quadruple Helix – Academic, Business, Community and Public sectors.

This meeting followed on from the Southend Business Partnership Briefing – ‘Digital Southend’ and the ‘Launch of Southend’s new 50km digital highway!’ which was held earlier in the month.

The purpose of the first Digital Southend Working Group was to summarise some of the main issues, policies, opportunities and challenges that have arisen thus far, and to open up a broader discussion within the group on what the short, medium and longer-term focuses should be for the Working Group, recognising the many potential benefits for Southend as a place in securing a thriving digital sector(s). The recently formed Southend Digital Working Group has now  held its second meeting on June 6th with 36 attendees participating and looks set to be a catalyst for Southend to develop its aspiration to become recognised as a vibrant digital location.

Murray Foster Chair DEC Trust addresses DSWG   -  Photo - Giles Tofield

Primary photography - Nick Wood