By Alan Lees

TECHNOLOGY can be life-changing. Looking back at history, it has undoubtedly helped us to survive and thrive as a civilisation, having made it easier to farm, build cities, teach and travel – among so many other things. Scottish inventors have often played a leading role in these innovations and continue to today. Technology has not only advanced our economies and society, but it’s universally relied upon as the path to a better future, trusted by many to be the superhero that will rescue us from various crises, from environmental to healthcare.

Today’s challenges call for innovations at pace and scale. But while so many rely on technology as the solution to the issues we face, so few are involved in the execution. Those who don’t class themselves as being in an industry that "works with technology" are missing out on the wonders it can bring – and we, in turn, are missing out on these organisations reaching their full potential. However, it’s not simply a lack of participation that is holding future innovation back – it’s a lack of access to resource.

The fact of the matter is that without a digital fabric weaved through our towns and cities, it is extremely difficult for organisations to bring to life ideas that will transform their services and inner workings for the better.

The Scottish Government is reviewing how the public sector will be connected in future, providing a once in a generation opportunity to really transform the way we operate as a country. Whether we’re focused on reaching more citizens, or hitting economic growth or environmental targets, we need infrastructure and innovation that brings partners together – a "ready-made" set-up that is managed by experts to respond to the needs of its users.

Our public services in Scotland have served us well over time. But today, as we tackle energy, cost of living and climate crises, incremental digital improvements simply won’t be enough to make the considerable changes we need. Our country is itching for transformation and has the potential to be a shining example to others of how best to innovate.

BT Group has the ambition, and more than 7,000 people in Scotland, poised to help the public sector reach its full potential. Our world-leading work with the University of Stirling is a great example of how technology and ideas can be harnessed together to create a "living laboratory" that uses 5G to capture, process and share data from across the Forth Valley, providing vital information on water quality that will inform major economic and sustainability efforts in the area. Bringing the public, private and education sectors together with world-leading technology partners, the BT-led project demonstrates what can be achieved when the right ambition and partners come together.

But so much more is possible. Scotland, at its core, is a nation that embraces and conceives great inventions. The future should see us take great strides, and not shy footsteps, towards a brilliant digital future. Today is not a time to stick to what we know – it’s a time to embrace a digital landscape, and trust in what our great nation is capable of so that we can be the innovators, not those left behind.

Alan Lees is BT Scotland Director