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Scotland should prioritise investment in the digital economy

04 Jun 2020

Does Scotland need to focus on the digital economy to stimulate recovery from Coronavirus? Openreach partnership director Robert Thorburn says it does

We’ve called on the Scottish Government to prioritise investment in the digital economy in our response to the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery.

As partnership director for Scotland, I’m a member of the Openreach board in Scotland, and we welcomed the CEO of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce to our latest meeting to talk about economic recover from Coronavirus. 

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At this time of unparalleled challenge, businesses, government and industry must work together to bolster Scotland’s digital resilience and bring about the changes needed for a sustainable recovery.

Investing in Scotland

Scotland must sustain investment in digital infrastructure, coupled with a strong programme to get those not using digital online and help those already online to exploit digital communication as effectively as possible. 

Bearsden, Halfway, Giffnock, Baillieston and Kilmarnock have continued to get broadband network upgrades during the lockdown, where it’s been safe to build.

Glasgow business leader Stuart Patrick from Glasgow Chamber joined our Board call, giving us a useful update on the Glasgow City Strategy. We assured him that we stand ready to help city firms back to work as lockdown restrictions begin to ease. 

Lockdown drives increase in usages

With a 70% rise in internet traffic carried across Openreach’s Scottish network during the weeks of the lockdown, the country has consumed a record 97 Petabytes of data in the last week. One Petabyte is equal to 1,000,000 Gigabytes – so that’s a lot of data flying around!

Connectivity has been a crucial lifeline, helping to keep people working and the economy moving, and supporting public services. It’s going to be even more critical in helping to rebuild the economy.

Boosting Scotland’s Economy

Full fibre will be transformational, boosting Scotland’s economy by £4.5bn, cutting carbon emissions from commuting and helping 37,000 more people to access employment. It will also reduce the transport and housing pressure in Scottish cities and level-up rural and local economies.

We’re still on track to bring the next generation of ultra-reliable, future-proof, full-fibre broadband technology to 4.5 million UK homes by the end of March next year, and we’re currently considering further investment in Scotland to help us go beyond this.

Turbocharging build in Scotland

But to turbocharge the build, the industry needs better and faster planning, access and roadworks rules. At this time of unparalleled challenge, businesses, government and industry must work together to bolster Scotland’s digital resilience and bring about the changes needed for a sustainable recovery.

Robert Thorburn

Partnership Director Scotland