Scotland business

Digital vision for Scotland unveiled

Worker at computer Image copyright Thinkstock

A vision for making Scotland into a world-leading digital society has been published, predicting 26 times more data use within 15 years.

The report has projected a boost of nearly 10% in economic output, or £13bn at current prices, if Scotland takes the most ambitious choices and becomes a world leader.

And it said 99% of Scots could be using the internet by 2030.

The report was commissioned by the Scottish Futures Trust.

It also said:

  • Three-quarters of companies could be selling more online than through conventional methods
  • Nineteen out of every 20 businesses would be using the computing cloud for their digital connections, saving on hardware
  • A fifth of the workforce could be working from home at least two days a week, reducing commuting time and costs.

With the Internet of Things being developed - allowing people to control homes, cars and workplaces through electronic communications - there could be as many as 130 million digital devices in Scotland - 26 for the average Scot.

Digital divide

Even without any initiative to make Scotland more ambitious in its digital connections, the Internet of Things is expected to mean 25 million connected devices by 2030.

The report, commissioned from Deloitte by the Scottish Futures Trust, an agency of the Scottish government, also details changes which a full embrace of digital technology could bring to public services.

It says:

  • Current application of computing power in the public sector is "fragmented"
  • The health service could save thousands of lives by remote handling of chronic conditions in patient's homes
  • Unnecessary laboratory tests could be sharply reduced and assessments could be done online by family doctors
  • Patients could book their own appointments online, cutting out the need for many administrative jobs.

The vision of digitally-skilled citizens also applies to education and schooling.

The aim would be to cut down the so-called "digital divide" between those with the computing hardware and skills to use it, and those who have neither.

The Deloitte authors also envisage a reduction of the split in digital access between rural and urban Scotland.

It notes that people living rurally use 20% less data on fixed landlines than those in cities, and 28% less on mobile connections.

Cloud computing

While the European Union average for internet access is 81% of people, Scotland lags on 78%.

The report also highlights relatively low uptake by businesses of recent digital options.

It says about 95% of Scottish businesses have internet access, but only 25% use cloud computing technology.

Of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), only 17% use the Next Generation Access (NGA) which is common for large companies.

Image copyright Getty Images

With a more digital society and economy, it is argued that productivity would rise, boosting total output, jobs and earnings, while making it easier for more businesses to start up.

The report's modelling suggests that a world-leading Scottish digital economy could help create 175,000 more jobs than if the current development rate is retained.

A less ambitious programme to become world class, rather than world-leading, is estimated to mean 120,000 more jobs.

Market data shows there are currently five million digital devices in Scotland, one million of them with mobile connections, yet usage is low by international comparison.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney welcomed the report "which shows the incredible potential of increased digitalisation to Scotland".

He said: "The report outlines that if Scotland were to become a world leader, the nation could not only see a significant increase in GDP, but also the creation of nearly 6,000 new small-medium sized enterprises and small office or home office enterprises."

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