Viewpoint | 07 Mar 2018

Unlocking the digital potential of Scotland’s towns and cities

Scotland today boasts a fast-growing digital economy. Devolved powers provide an opportunity for policymakers to drive economic growth. The challenge is how to harness the full digital potential of their towns and cities, argues Paul Morris, Head of Government Affairs, Vodafone UK.

Scotland today boasts a fast-growing digital economy, with towns and cities that are becoming increasingly attractive hubs for digital companies to thrive. Devolved powers provide an opportunity for policymakers to drive economic growth. The challenge is how to fully harness the digital potential of their towns and cities.

A report published today by Vodafone looks at how policymakers can make that happen. Unlocking Scotland’s Digital Potential provides an overview of some of the towns and cities across Scotland that are ideally placed to become “Digital Super Towns”, places where every bit of digital potential is exploited to its fullest.

Scotland’s digital leaders

Tech is the Scottish economy’s fastest growing sector. Already, tech businesses in Scotland are attracting large scale investments and delivering exciting innovations. As a digital business with a large presence in Scotland, Vodafone is committed to investing in Scotland’s digital infrastructure, as well as in technologies that will boost productivity. At the same time, we want to support the development of policy initiatives that will help to drive economic growth across Scotland.

This report offers a set of policy recommendations that aim to pave the way for the development of Digital Super Towns in Scotland. We have looked at 17 towns and cities from Aberdeen to Perth, using three indicators to construct a scorecard of future digital leaders:

  1. Digital infrastructure, such as 4G coverage
  2. Digital economy, which includes businesses such as software companies
  3. Digital skills, which are estimated using metrics such as school performance data

Using these indicators, the report finds that while places like Cumbernauld, as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow, rank as digital high performers, there is digital potential right across Scotland. The report highlights the vital importance of digital infrastructure as a foundation for growth. Aberdeen for example is set to become a forerunner for digital transformation in Scotland with the recent announcement of a new fibre broadband network, as part of the Vodafone and CityFibre Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) programme.

A strong foundation for Scotland’s Digital Super Towns

To lay the groundwork for Digital Super Towns in Scotland, Vodafone proposes the establishment of ‘Digital Enterprise Zones’. These are designated geographic areas created to help local companies and communities fulfil their digital potential. For example, Digital Enterprise Zones could enhance digital economies through initiatives like trialling digital marketing vouchers for Scottish SMEs with export potential. Digital Enterprise Zones could also help to strengthen digital skills, by providing opportunities such as work experience placements in digital businesses.

In addition, Digital Enterprise Zones could support digital infrastructure, by incentivising investment in full fibre networks, for instance. These Digital Enterprise Zones would form the foundation for future Digital Super Towns, ensuring that policymakers can maximise Scotland’s digital potential and deliver a thriving economy.

To read the full report, please click on the Download Report button.