SCOTLAND’S tech sector could create an extra 70,000 jobs over the next five years if government and industry worked together to foster its growth, according to digital technologies trade body ScotlandIS.
Launching its manifesto ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections, the group called for a range of measures including better broadband connectivity, support for growing tech clusters – including potential new clusters in Aberdeen and Inverness – and improved access to growth capital.
“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,” said ScotlandIS chief executive Polly Purvis.
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“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 and this should be encouraged, increasing the number of companies who understand how to export successfully.”
Ms Purvis described data science as the study of information, where it comes from, what it means and how it can be turned into valuable resource by government and business.
The manifesto calls on the next Scottish Government to accelerate the availability of next generation broadband connectivity, particularly in rural areas, with everyone having access to a minimum broadband speed of 10 megabits per second and 4G mobile coverage, increasing to a minimum of 500 megabits per second ultrafast broadband and 5G mobile by 2025.
Free Wi-Fi access should become the norm in town and cities, with a Scotland-wide public education programme to improve digital literacy.
“There should be a focus on fostering tech cluster growth, with new clusters encouraged in Aberdeen and Inverness, and growth targets for Edinburgh and Glasgow to outperform successful cities such as Stockholm and Berlin,” ScotlandIS added.
Investment should continue in upskilling and reskilling the current workforce, and attracting more women into tech careers. Mechanisms to encourage crowdfunding would improve access to growth capital.
Scotland’s tech sector is currently worth around £5 billion to the economy, employing more than 84,000 people.