Investing in connectivity, enabling the digital economy

A photograph of a cable used by Hydro Group Scotland

Key points:

  • Conclude delivery of our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) Programme
  • Complete procurement for the Reaching 100% (R100) programme
  • Enhance our Digital Economy
  • New 4G masts in remote rural areas
  • A new 5G strategy
  • A full fibre charter

Alongside our partners we invested over £400 million in the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme with an aim to extend fibre broadband access to 95% of premises across the country by the end of 2017. This target was met and has now been exceed with over 940,000 premises capable of accessing fibre broadband through DSSB (December 2019). Due to a higher than expected take up of services on DSSB funded infrastructure, over £38 million has been reinvested in DSSB which will ensure that even more homes and businesses will benefit from access to fibre broadband, with delivery set to continue into 2020.

Building on the success of the DSSB programme, the Scottish Government has committed to ensuring that all homes and businesses across the country can access superfast broadband. This is known as the Reaching 100% (R100) programme. The £600 million committed to the procurement for R100 is a vital investment in Scotland’s national infrastructure.

As a direct result of the publically funded DSSB programme, we have provided access to fibre broadband across Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, areas which would otherwise have failed to be connected if left to the commercial market.

Through our Scottish 4G Mobile Infill (S4GI) Programme, the Scottish Government aims to push 4G coverage beyond commercial rollout by investing up to £25 million to deliver future-proofed 4G infrastructure to selected mobile ‘not-spots’. Currently the programme is focusing on the delivery of up to 49 mast sites, although these sites will only go to build phase if the commitment of mobile operator to using the infrastructure to deliver 4G services is achieved.

To ensure all of Scotland can benefit from the digital economy, we will use the £36 million Digital Growth Fund programme, the Digital Development Loan to improve the digital capability of Scotland’s SMEs and the digital skills of Scotland’s workforce and continue to support the DigitalBoost programme, to give advice and support that improves the level of digital maturity amongst businesses in across Scotland.

It is recognised globally that the application of digital technologies has developed rapidly in the last few years (particularly connectivity {e.g. 5G}, local and remote sensor technology, the Internet of Things (IOT), advanced data analytics and AI). Coordinated and focused combinations of these digital technologies will enable a wide variety of rural businesses to develop and grow. The monitoring and analysis of vast quantities of information which will also enable land management, food production and environment management processes to be optimised and interventions to be targeted.

Furthermore, the Scottish Government has invested significant sums of money (and continues to do so) to enable rural/remote area connectivity across Scotland, and there are a number of innovative digitally enabled initiatives that are being tested, specifically in land and environment management and agriculture. Scotland can further exploit and spread the application of digital technologies, data analytics and AI for food production (“smart farming”), land use and environment management, and wider business growth. Our target policies and investment will:-

  • Encourage digital entrepreneurship and the establishment of new businesses either directly in food production, land use and environment management or in support of these.
  • Encourage rural businesses land managers, food producers and other rural businesses to invest and use such digital technologies to support decision-making and maximise economic benefit in an environmentally conscientious way.
  • Enable more effective and lower cost regulation and monitoring of land use and food production by government bodies and agencies.
  • Accelerate digital methods and technologies to reduce the Scottish Government’s total cost of ownership of ICT/digital operations, and provide a common Digital Platform and service that is flexible and sustainable, thus ensuring that services are efficient and responsive to the needs of rural citizens.

We are harnessing digital innovation within our transport system by investing up to £2 million to develop ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) in Scotland, with funding now available to support projects until 2021. Further details are on the Transport Scotland website.

We have published our 5G strategy which sets out our aspiration to position Scotland as a 5G leader and a forward-looking digital nation and have established The Scotland 5G Centre – a collaboration between government and academia with industry. Our aim is for Scotland to gain early-mover advantage from this emerging technology with a view to ultimately enabling high volume data exchange, stimulating markets in high-data products and services and enabling businesses and underpinning progress in areas like connected devices, machine learning and the internet of things. And to ensure Scotland’s people and businesses receive equal priority in the rollout of mobile connectivity infrastructure, we will continue to press Ofcom and the UK Government to enable the mobile infrastructure that Scotland needs.

We want to see as much of Scotland as possible benefit from the growing range of emerging digital technologies. Advances in 4G, urban Wi-Fi, the Internet of Things and 5G will create a wealth of social and economic benefits. Much of this will be deployed commercially but rollout of new infrastructure could be slowed by increasingly complex processes and new legislation. But, by making its property available in a coherent, structured manner, the public sector can make a positive contribution in this area. We will develop rental guidance for public sector land and buildings to site infrastructure. This will be a national framework that is workable, balanced and transparent. Initially we will focus on the assets owned by the Scottish Government and work with partners in the public sector. This guidance will not be obligatory but act as best practice and a basis for discussion between industry and managers of public sector assets.

We will host a roundtable with mobile and digital providers and businesses to secure their commitment to delivery of the 5G strategy and to maximise full fibre coverage throughout Scotland. We will continue to support them to invest in Scotland, particularly through the 10-year rates relief on new fibre infrastructure.
In return, mobile and digital providers benefiting from these measures will be encouraged to sign up to a Full Fibre Charter for Scotland to help us deliver inclusive growth and a fairer Scotland.

Our Full Fibre Charter will provide a basis for Government and operators to work together to maximise full fibre coverage throughout Scotland, extending build further into remote, rural and geographically challenging areas.

We will also launch a promotional strategy for Digital Scotland aimed at attracting investors, designers, entrepreneurs and technical talent to think of Scotland as the right place to host data, test technology and start a digital business. This will be backed by a commitment to further enhance the speed and resilience of Scotland’s connections to the internet and an approach to the development and delivery of public services that offers start-ups and established businesses the opportunities to innovate and commercialise their ideas.

Key resources:

Superfast broadband in Scotland: reaching 100%

Realising Scotland’s full potential in a digital world: a digital strategy for Scotland

Scottish Government: Digital policy

Scottish Futures Trust: Digital