100% broadband – Then what?
The Scottish Government has a laudable goal of achieving 100% rollout of broadband across Scotland, the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative funded to the whopping tune of £600m.
Yes this is the core building block of a Scottish digital nation, but it’s only one half piece of the complete jigsaw, broadband alone will not deliver on what the ultimate goals of this spending are. As such without a complete strategy the big risk and question is therefore : Then what?
Research from Scotland’s Rural College describes this risk and the huge benefits of addressing it through a complete strategy. In their research Unlocking the digital potential of rural areas, they identify that over half of small businesses describe other challenges beyond high speed access standing in their way of mastering digital.
Unlocking the digital potential of rural areas in Scotland could add between £1.2bn and £2.5bn annually in Gross Value Added (GVA) to Scotland’s rural economy and at least £1.44bn to rural business turnover the report says, with almost four-in-five rural business owners believing digital tools and services are important to their future growth potential.
However 52% of rural business owners say they face some form of skills-related obstacle to adopting digital to unlock more growth, such as recruiting people with appropriate skills to finding training for their existing workforce.
Almost a third (30 per cent) have difficulty finding external or outsourced digital connectivity support, 14 per cent have difficulty accessing appropriate external digital training for the existing workforce and one-in-five (20 per cent) say their existing workforce lacks sufficient skills or they struggle to recruit people with appropriate digital skills.
Our Digital Scotland initiative is intended as the second jigsaw piece that completes the puzzle.
The rural study identified that:
Cloud computing is seen as the biggest driver (67 per cent).
and this is our primary specialism, complimenting the government’s program to provide the Cloud platform services and skills support that will maximize the uptake and usage of the installed broadband. The Cloud will enable Scottish businesses to adopt more sophisticated working practices and online digital services that grows their trade internationally.
In Scotland we can see the whole picture of the impact of this when you consider Scotland’s primary economic challenge: Stalled productivity. The David Hume Institute documented the nation has made no productivity gains in 15 years and “Scotland sits mid-table for productivity among OECD countries, and falls below other European economies such as the Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.”
The Royal Society of Edinburgh responded to explain that productivity growth is dominated by the top 1% of companies, with the remaining 99% stagnant, and they identify a lack of investment in R&D as a primary cause. This is evident through a lack of investment in technology, for example the Microsoft digital nation blueprint reports that:
“While 75% stated that digital technology was essential to the future growth or competitiveness of their business only 37% of the 4,000 Scottish businesses surveyed stated that their employees were equipped with sufficient technology skills to meet the business’ digital technology needs.
Only 36% invested in an improved company web site and only 17 – 19% have invested in e-commerce sites and Cloud services.
28% still don’t even have a web site!”
All research repeats that technology and international growth are key ways to boost productivity but as we can see Scotland’s SMEs aren’t equipping themselves with the basic tools needed in today’s world to do so.
Broadband alone won’t address that.
As we start to explore what skills and Cloud applications will best help Scottish businesses this leads us to our Smart Village initiative. Led by Kenny Higgins we’ve been developing a Cloud platform that will be rolled out to Scotland’s 2,300+ rural towns and villages.
It’s a land mass that accounts for 98% of the country and over 20% of it’s small businesses. There are 343,535 SMEs operating in Scotland, providing an estimated 1.2 million jobs. SMEs accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses in 2018, accounting for 54.9% of private sector employment and 41.5% of private sector turnover.
The Smart Village cloud platform will enable mass-scale deployment of a web site system tailored to each and every community, delivering primary functionality of:
A Digital Tourism portal – Scotland’s biggest untapped asset is our deep heritage and history. Hollywood recognized that long ago and has made a fortune out of exploiting it. From William Wallace through Rob Roy, our national history has ignited the imagination of storytellers and audiences for centuries, providing the assets to fuel $ billions of revenues for multiple movies and TV shows.
However visit the web sites of the towns most associated with these characters and you’ll struggle to find many that do the same. Tens of thousands of potential tourism visitors are missed as a result, and so our keynote capability will be to help communities establish a 2019-ready web presence that serves as a Hollywood-type web media interface to the worldwide market, populated with rich blog and wiki content input by local experts, content that tells the tales of their Scottish history and the colourful characters it has produced, encouraging tourists to visit and experience it for themselves.
Data and services aggregation – Furthermore ‘micro apps’, like a booking function for bed and breakfasts, will also enable local SMEs to add value to this portal, adding to the content of the site and making it possible to buy a complete ‘tourism experience’, such as a Rob Roy History Tour for example.
The ability to aggregate services and data will also be extended to functions like Local Authority services, so that the portal provides value to the local residents too. This will also include plugins to bring in data like weather and flood alerts, as part of a process where we work with each community to configure the portal to suit their particular local needs.
Digital Scotland ²
In short Scotland’s ambition to build a world leading digital nation will be best achieved through “Digital Scotland ²” – The high speed broadband being rolled out via the Scottish Government’s Digital Scotland initiative, combined with the Cloud applications and skills of our Digital Scotland platform.
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