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Plea to help develop ‘invisible’ industry

Polly PurvisThe “invisible” industry – the digital technology sector – has the capacity to create 70,000 jobs over the next five years, according to the software trade body ScotlandIS.

In its election submission, it is calling on all political parties to focus on improving connectivity, reskilling the workforce and making the most of academic resources to help Scotland compete against the best in the world.

The sector has grown substantially over the last five years and ScotlandIS believes that the industry has the potential to double in size if Government and industry work together to create a climate for growth.

Describing the sector as ‘the invisible industry that is changing the world’, it highlights three significant opportunities for growth: exports, data science, and cybersecurity.

Developed in consultation with its membership, the ScotlandIS manifesto calls on the next Scottish Government to accelerate the availability of next generation connectivity.

It says this is needed  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 become the norm in town and cities, starting with the opening up of wi-fi infrastructure funded by the public sector.

ScotlandIS calls for greater digital inclusion, by creating a public education programme to help the 1 in 7 Scots who are currently excluded.

It says the Government should lead by example by ensuring digital literacy across its own staff at all levels.

A focus on fostering the growth of a technology sector, with new clusters in Aberdeen and Inverness, and growth targets for Edinburgh and Glasgow, would help Scotland outperform cities such as Stockholm and Berlin, it says.

It wants the incoming Government to help develo business incubators and accelerators, and encourage successful technology business people to return to Scotland.

To tackle a skills shortage it says Scotland must engage and excite young people, upskilling teachers, ensuring education provision meets industry needs, and reskilling the current workforce. It should also address the gender balance and attract more women into careers in technology.

The next Government needs to improve access to growth capital by encouraging crowdfunding and new venture capital funds, it says.

Polly Purvis (pictured), chief executive of ScotlandIS, says: “We are at the beginning of the next information revolution. 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.”

She continues: “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.”

More than 84,000 work in digital technology across Scotland, generating more than £5 billion in GVA. According to KPMG’s Tech Monitor, the number of tech sector enterprises in Scotland grew by 43.4% between 2010 and 2015, second only to London (54.6%).

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