Focus: digital growth

Tuesday 23rd February 2016
Future of digital technologies:

ScotlandIS urges all political parties to focus on growth in digital technologies sector, as it launches its manifesto, ahead of the Scottish Parliament election. The sector defined as ‘the invisible industry that is changing the world’, the trade body says better connectivity for every citizen, a workforce equipped for the future with greater digital inclusion, will help Scotland to achieve its potential as a digital excellence nation. It highlights exports, data science, and cybersecurity as the most significant opportunities for growth.

The sector has grown substantially over the last five years and ScotlandIS believes that the industry has the potential to double in size if Government and industry work together to create a climate for growth.

Developed in consultation with its membership, the ScotlandIS manifesto calls on the next Scottish Government to accelerate the availability of next generation connectivity, particularly in rural areas, with every individual having access to a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbit/s and 4G mobile coverage, increasing to a minimum of 500Mbit/s ultrafast broadband and 5G mobile by 2025.

It also recommends that free Wi-Fi access become the norm in town and cities, starting by opening up a Wi-Fi infrastructure funded by the public sector.

At the same time, it should ensure greater digital inclusion, by creating a Scotland-wide public education programme to help the 1 in 7 Scots who are currently excluded. The Government should lead by example in ensuring digital literacy across its own staff at all levels.

There should be a focus on fostering tech cluster growth, with new clusters being encouraged across Scotland to include  Aberdeen and Inverness, and growth targets for Edinburgh and Glasgow (perhaps Perth and Stirling too?) to outperform such  currently successful cities  as Stockholm  Berlin and Helsinki. 

To achieve this, ScotlandIS is urging a detailed analysis of  digital technologies communities to provide a baseline for local growth strategies. The incoming Government must also support development and expansion of a range of business incubators and accelerators, and encourage successful technology business people to return to Scotland.

Skills shortage remains a critical issue. Scotland must create the workforce of the future by engaging and exciting young people, upskilling teachers, ensuring education provision meets industry needs and reskilling the current workforce. It should also address the gender imbalance and attract more women into STEM and careers in tech. 

Skills recommendations include continuing investment in the roll out of the Skills Investment Plan for ICT and Digital Technologies, equipping schools with devices such as the Raspberry Pi, and reassessing how computer science is taught in schools. 

ScotlandIS calls for the next Government to improve access to growth capital by finding mechanisms to encourage crowdfunding, providing cornerstone funding in new venture capital funds through the Scottish Investment Bank, and by attracting international VC companies to open local offices. 

It should build on the research strengths in Scotland’s academic institutions and stimulate the developing collaboration between the innovation centres such as The Data Lab and the Digital Health Institute. 

 CEO of ScotlandIS,  Polly Purvis  (above right) says: “We are at the beginning of the next information revolution. Scotland has the opportunity to convert our undeniable potential into a reality by creating  an effective digital economy, which could translate into an extra 70,000 jobs in five years. 

“In particular, we must leverage the current global opportunities in data science and cybersecurity as well as working to increase exports. Our research suggests that there is significant appetite among Scottish businesses to expand international sales and this should be encouraged, increasing the number of companies who understand how to export successfully.” 

“Scotland is on the road to becoming a world class digital nation by 2020." She continues: "In doing so we have the opportunity to deliver a healthier and wealthier nation, to reshape our society, to deliver highly skilled, fulfilling jobs and drive efficiencies and productivity gains in our public services and established businesses. 

“The ScotlandIS manifesto offers practical proposals for Scotland to embrace digital technologies wholeheartedly, to educate our workforce, business and public sector leaders, wider society and, most importantly, our young people in the benefits digital technologies can deliver. We believe that industry, working with government and policy makers, can make a step change to deliver economic and societal value.” 

Changing the Climate for Growth Over 84,000 people currently work in digital technologies roles across Scotland, generating more than £5 billion in GVA. According to KPMG’s Tech Monitor, the number of tech sector enterprises in Scotland grew 43.4 per cent between 2010 and 2015, second only to London (54.6 per cent).

Technology trade organisation ScotlandIS represents more than 250 software, telecoms, IT and digital agency businesses throughout Scotland. With a remit is to raise the profile of the industry in Scotland, l obby policy makers on relevant issues and support its members in the development of business relationships with customers, suppliers and partner companies.

Members offer a broad range of products, services and skills to users in industry, commerce and the public sector. Many members are internationally recognised and active in world export markets. ScotlandIS has members across the length and  breadth of the Scottish digital technologies industry ranged from global players to the small and highly specialist.



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