A quarter of firms say web is ‘not vital’ to their business

Many Scottish businesses do not have broadband access and only 75% say that digital platforms and technologies were vital to their operations, according to a report.

But the Government said it was encouraged by the “growth in Scotland’s digital economy” and one of the report’s sponsors said the survey would provide a benchmark to track progress.

Scottish firms are using a variety of digital technologies, including the internet, social media and data analytics to drive innovation and increase future sales, according to the Digital Economy Business Survey.

It shows that 92 per cent of businesses have access to broadband and that three quarters of Scottish firms stated that digital platforms and technologies were vital to their operations.

Over 4,000 businesses took part in the survey commissioned by the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands and Skills Development Scotland.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “I am encouraged by the survey’s results, which highlight the growth in Scotland’s digital economy and will play a key role in informing and targeting our continuing efforts to make Scotland a world class digital economy.

“We are investing £13.6m through our Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership. The Partnership is delivering these funds through two distinct programmes, the first designed to provide advice and support to businesses on the benefits of digital platforms, tools and technologies, with a second aimed at increasing the flow of skilled workers to the sector.

“The data obtained through this survey will play a vital role in helping us to ensure that our support and advice remain well designed and targeted, and to monitor our progress over the coming years.

“We will also continue, through our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme, to provide homes and businesses across the country with access to high-speed broadband infrastructure.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is leading on the roll-out of fibre for its region, and delivers a wide range of initiatives to support businesses and communities to maximise the benefits of broadband.

The benefits of digital technology for businesses include boosting exposure of the company, allowing for greater flexibility and remote working, better advertising and collection of customer data.

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital said: “The roll-out of fibre across the Highlands and Islands is opening up access to high speed broadband for many of our businesses for the first time.

“The survey figures reveal that 73 per cent of the region’s firms already think digital technology is essential or important to their future growth. As roll-out continues, these findings provide a benchmark to track progress as HIE works with our businesses to build the benefits of better broadband into their plans.”

Ian Blewett, Scottish Enterprise’s Head of Digital Economy said: “These survey results are crucial in helping Scottish Enterprise and the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership understand the scale and the appropriate nature of support required to enable Scotland’s businesses to take full advantage of the productivity and market-reach benefits of digital technologies.”