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Digital is in business in the Highlands and Islands

24 March 2015

A report published by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) reveals that 73% of businesses surveyed region wide believe digital technology is important or essential to future growth.

Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Keith Brown was joined by representatives of HIE and the local business community in Inverness to launch the Digital Scotland: Highlands and Islands findings. The research, commissioned by HIE, explores the current levels of digital use of more than 2,000 businesses in locations from Shetland to Argyll.

Carried out by IFF Research, the survey asked businesses about their current use of broadband and its importance, about digital skills in the workforce and their future intention to adopt and use digital technology.
Speaking at an SCDI event in the Highland capital, the Minister commented: “The Scottish Government’s ambition is to see the Highlands and Islands develop as a truly digital region, with a vibrant digital economy and a population with a high level of digital skills.

“This research is part of a nationwide project which will provide a baseline of digital activity across Scotland. HIE, which is also leading on the delivery of a £146m high-speed broadband roll-out across the region, will support our businesses and communities maximise the benefits of being better connected.”

The current findings for the region reveal that 94% of the businesses have an internet connection, almost two thirds have a company website and more than half use internet ready devices like smartphones and tablets as part of their day to day work.

Catherine MacNeil, Senior Research Manager at HIE, said: “The figures provide us with a snapshot of how our businesses are using the internet and technology. The findings show that businesses across the region already see that the use of technology plays an important role in supporting business growth, increasing revenue and improving business efficiency. We want to help the region to achieve the best possible connections and make the most of the many opportunities and efficiencies digital technology can bring.”

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Of the businesses exporting goods or services 73% agreed digital technologies increased the number of markets they could export to
  • Two thirds of businesses (66%) had used public service websites over the past year to find out information or access forms. Benefits reported included that it saved time (83%) and money (61%)

The report also asked businesses what they saw as barriers to further adoption of technologies. Access to a better broadband connection, time and resource and lack of skills were all highlighted.

Of the businesses already online the figures revealed that only 11% had access to high speed broadband. The Scottish Government, HIE, Broadband Delivery UK and BT are currently investing £146m to bring next generation broadband networks to 84% of our region’s premises by 2016. In skills, a £6.6m investment plan was announced in March by the First Minister, to address the recognised digital skills shortage.

Fraser Grieve, Highlands and Islands Director of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry commented: “In the Highlands and Islands we are seeing the roll-out of a vital fibre broadband infrastructure which will open up opportunities for communities who haven’t had this kind of high-speed access before.
“New opportunities will only grow as the internet develops and we want the Highlands and Islands to be part of that growth.”

David Richardson, Development Manager of the Federation of Small Businesses for the Highlands and Islands, said: “Businesses in the Highlands and Islands have always embraced new technologies and ways of working and, as our recent report into home-based businesses made clear, sound digital connectivity is not a luxury but a necessity. Many businesses are already benefiting from email and the use of smart technology to sell online and produce greater business efficiency. We must now work together to ensure that everyone everywhere can benefit from these new technologies and, once available, to encourage full uptake of the opportunities on offer.”

See the findings of the report – both executive summary and full report here >

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Adrian 16/04/2015

I guess the businesses and properties in the city centre of Inverness aren't as important in the fibre rollout as everyone else - nearly 3 years since fibre began in Inverness, the upgrades to exchange only lines still haven't even started despite it being announced last year - no sign of the three cabinets outside the exchange that were granted planning permission last year, nor the other four that were also promised. To add to the frustration, Culloden, which was upgraded AFTER the main Inverness exchange, has already had many (if not all?) of it's exchange only lines upgraded! While I am pleased that the scale of the rollout is bringing fibre to many in the Highlands, it is clear that HIE/Openreach are more interested in the big headlines - X Y and Z locations upgraded, look how amazing we are bringing fibre to the Highlands. No doubt HIE have fibre direct to their offices, being in the same building as BT.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 21/04/2015

Hi Adrian, sorry you're feeling frustrated about the wait for fibre. It's a huge job and will take some time. We've seen a big leap in coverage for Inverness (around 75% with commercial roll-out too) and there will be more in the coming months. Equally, the communities and businesses right across our region - many of whom are struggling with much slower speeds - are just as desperate to enjoy the benefits. For info - one of the pluses of the new networks for businesses which need great connectivity is easier access to services like Ethernet and leased lines. They are available in Inverness. Good time to look at them too as Highland Council is managing connection vouchers of up to £3000 for eligible firms.

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