Digital push ‘could create 70,000 jobs’

Trade body ScotlandIS called on all political parties to focus on fostering growth in digital technologies as it launched its manifesto ahead of the Scottish Parliament election, claiming that up to 70,000 jobs could be created in five years.

The trade body for digital technologies said the sector has grown substantially over the last five years and has the potential to double in size if government and industry work together.

ScotlandIS said more than 84,000 people work in digital technologies roles across Scotland, generating more than £5 billion in “gross value added.”

According to KPMG’s Tech Monitor, the number of tech sector enterprises in Scotland grew 43.4 per cent between 2010 and 2015, second only to London with 54.6 per cent.

“We are at the beginning of the next information revolution,” said Polly Purvis, chief executive of ScotlandIS.

“Scotland has the opportunity to convert our undeniable potential into a reality by creating an effective digital economy, which could translate into an extra 70,000 jobs in five years.

“In particular, we must leverage the current global opportunities in data science and cybersecurity as well as working to increase exports.

“Our research suggests that there is significant appetite among Scottish businesses to expand international sales and this should be encouraged, increasing the number of companies who understand how to export successfully.”

Describing the sector as “the invisible industry that is changing the world,” the trade body said that better connectivity for every citizen, a workforce equipped for the future and greater digital inclusion will help Scotland to achieve its potential as a digital nation.

It said Scotland has three significant opportunities for growth: exports, data science, and cybersecurity.

The ScotlandIS manifesto calls on the next Scottish government to accelerate the availability of next generation connectivity, particularly in rural areas, with every individual having access to a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbit/s and 4G mobile coverage, increasing to a minimum of 500Mbit/s ultrafast broadband and 5G mobile by 2025.

It also recommends that free Wi-Fi access should become the norm in town and cities, starting with the opening up of Wi-Fi infrastructure funded by the public sector.

At the same time, the government should ensure greater digital inclusion, by creating a Scotland-wide public education programme to help the one in seven Scots who are currently excluded.

The government should lead by example in ensuring digital literacy across its own staff at all levels.

There should be a focus on fostering tech cluster growth, with new clusters encouraged in Aberdeen and Inverness, and growth targets for Edinburgh and Glasgow to outperform successful cities such as Stockholm and Berlin.

“The skills shortage remains a critical issue so Scotland must create the workforce of the future, by engaging and exciting young people, upskilling teachers, ensuring education provision meets industry needs and, upskilling and reskilling the current workforce,” said the trade body.

Purvis added: “Scotland is on the road to becoming a world class digital nation by 2020.

“In doing so we have the opportunity to deliver a healthier and wealthier nation, to reshape our society, to deliver highly skilled and fulfilling jobs and to drive efficiencies and productivity gains in our public services and established businesses.

“The ScotlandIS manifesto offers practical proposals for Scotland to embrace digital technologies wholeheartedly, to educate our workforce, business and public sector leaders, wider society and, most importantly, our young people in the benefits digital technologies can deliver.

“We believe that industry, working with government and policy makers, can make a step change to deliver economic and societal value.”