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Research shows more Highlands and Islands businesses using digital technology

Published: 05/08/2021

Businesses across the Highlands and Islands are using digital technology in ever greater numbers, according to a new study published by the region’s development agency.

Martin Johnson HIE director of strategy and regional economy
Martin Johnson

Researchers from Ipsos MORI found that 78% of Highlands and Islands companies are now using mobile technology as a key element of their operations, up from 70% since a similar survey was carried out four years ago.

Another key finding revealed that cloud computing is now being used by 67% of the region’s businesses – a remarkable surge of 38 points from the 2017 level of just 29%.

The proportion using social media has risen by 5 points, from 63% in 2017 to 68% today, while 65% of companies now have a website – a rise of 4 points.

More than three-quarters (77%) agreed that digital technology had played an important or essential role in their response to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regional figures were collated as part of the Scotland-wide Digital Economy Business Survey (DEBS), a partnership involving Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and, for the first time this year, South of Scotland Enterprise.

As well as tracking Scotland’s progress in the digital economy, the survey enables government and agencies to gain insights into the types of support and interventions required to help businesses keep pace with advances in digital technology worldwide.

Martin Johnson, HIE’s director of strategy and regional economy, welcomed the findings, but stressed the need for the region’s progress to be sustained.

“Digital technology is playing an increasingly important role in Scotland’s economy and it’s crucial that rural areas are able to share in the benefits it can help deliver,” said Mr Johnson.

“While it’s encouraging to see more and more of the region’s businesses using digital technology in a variety of ways, we are also aware that the region’s overall engagement level remains slightly lower than Scotland as a whole.

“That’s why we’re continuing to encourage and support our clients and other companies across the Highlands and Islands to increase their use of digital in a variety of ways, from engaging customers through e-commerce to enhancing productivity and competitiveness, and strengthening cyber security.”

Fieldwork for the Highlands and Islands survey was carried out through telephone interviews between 22 February and 23 April 2021. A total of 1,150 businesses took part from across the region.

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