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Community Broadband Scotland at Digital Scotland 2013

Nicola Sturgeon Deputy First Minister speaking at the Digital Scotland 2013 conference and exhibition

Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) was out in full force to support the recent Digital Scotland 2013 conference and exhibition at Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh on 22 May. Exhibitors, speakers and delegates from all over the UK took part with CBS creating a hub of activity in its section of the exhibition hall.

Represented in the CBS hub at Digital Scotland, alongside the Digital Highlands and Islands team, were Lothian Broadband and B4GAL.  Lothian Broadband, an established community broadband initiative, will soon be issuing shares to develop a new mast to bring better broadband to more communities in East Lothian.  B4GAL, in Glencaple and Lowther, is currently working up an exciting fibre project modelled on the successful community-owned B4RN project in Lancashire.

Digital Scotland 2013 brought together the perspectives of the Scottish government, Local authorities, community leaders and key business enterprises to work towards the Scottish Government’s 2020 vision of having a world-class digital infrastructure. Smart cities, rural challenges, applications of the future, digital services and mobile technologies were all discussed led by an excellent range of speakers including Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The Conference is a key activity in Scotland’s Digital Dialogue programme of events.

The Deputy First minister’s message was that government is there to “empower not impose” and that the partnership between HIE and BT worth almost £150 million would “create world class connectivity” throughout the Highlands and Islands with 19 island seabed cables laid and 800 km of fibre. This would showcase “the art of the possible” she added. She then announced another £7m to assist SME (Small and medium sized Enterprise) make best use of the new digital opportunities available.

Messages from key speakers including Brendan Dick (Managing Director of BT Scotland) and Mike Short (Vice president of Telefonica Europe) included a call to action to stimulate demand. By enthusing the public to get digitally literate and take part, their advantage in doing so will be much better services.

As a result of the Scotland-wide investment in digital technologies, public services will become accessible anytime, anywhere, and on any device and thus will enable residents and visitors to discover, explore, buy and engage in all aspects of modern living. This new era also gives city and rural, private and community enterprise, the opportunity and ability to increase its productivity.

With the next generation Digital Scotland connected – greater opportunities will be created allowing users to be more creative – which in turn will create more opportunity.

Community Broadband Scotland is charged with supporting the ‘harder to reach’ communities; those communities receiving less than 2Mbps and least likely to benefit from the next generation rollout (Step Change programme).  CBS is on hand to help these communities take forward their own projects to improve local broadband provision.  Work is already underway with the six CBS pioneer projects making good progress and a steady flow of expressions of interest coming forward.

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