Use of social media and mobile technology is on the increase by Highlands and Islands businesses, according to the region’s second Digital Economy Business Survey (DEBS).

The findings of the survey carried out by Ipsos MORI, were launched by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to coincide with DataFest18 at an event in Inverness for businesses and the wider community.

In the report, businesses highlight a move away from traditional website use since 2014 and increased focus on the use of mobile technologies, social media, cloud and software solutions and data analytics.

The 2017 survey, which forms part of a Scotland wide report, builds on a baseline study carried out in 2014. It aims to track businesses’ progress in the digital economy. More than 3,000 businesses took part across Scotland, with 1200 Highlands and Islands companies taking part.

Themes explored include adoption and use of technology, internationalisation, ecommerce, digital skills and cyber resilience. The urvey is a partnership project involving HIE, Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland.

David Oxley, Director of Business and Sector Development at HIE, said: “HIE has been delivering a digital development programme across the region since 2012, with more than 4,000 people taking part in one-to-one digital reviews, workshops, events and coming to our #hellodigital demonstration centres in Inverness, Forres and Dunoon.

“The latest survey figures demonstrate that more of our businesses are putting digital at the heart of their activity. A high number, 75%, see digital technology as essential or important for their business. There is an increased awareness and demand for access to digital skills. Those using digital technologies say that the benefits include raised profile, better customer care and more efficient working practices.

“With around 80% of the region’s homes and businesses able to order superfast broadband, we are continuing to help our communities to adopt new technologies alongside the on-going roll-out of better connectivity.”

Anthony Standing, Skills Development Scotland’s head of operations for the Highlands and Islands, said: “The demand for digital skills increasingly extends across all sectors of the economy and not just those businesses considered as technology firms.

“There now more ways than ever for young people and businesses to develop those tech skills that are in demand, including through digital Foundation Apprenticeship for school pupils and Graduate Apprenticeships for employees.”

Other findings in the report include:

The level of international trade carried out has increased since 2014, with arou

  • The level of international trade carried out has increased since 2014, with around a quarter of businesses selling goods or services outside of the UK. For those in this market there was a direct link between digital technology and international activity.
  • The level of e-commerce has risen since 2014, although figures indicate there is still significant growth potential for regional and national businesses.  For half of those selling in this way, it accounts for less than 20% of their sales. Companies own websites are still the most common platform for e-commerce. The use of alternative digital marketplaces/platforms is increasing.
  • The survey asked businesses about cyber resilience for the first time. Most business (92%) are using some form of security, with anti-virus software the most prevalent (90%).  Around a quarter of businesses felt they had the skills base to deal with cyber security threats. Almost the same again (21%), many of whom were not significant users of digital technologies, felt they weren’t equipped.

HIE is supporting its clients in this area; last week, the first of 40 businesses going through the ‘Cyber Strong’ programme achieved the industry recognised Cyber Essentials accreditation.