Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, supports The Herald’s newest awards

The launch last month of the very first Herald Digital Transformation Awards in association with Digital World is an indicator of the changing nature of business and society in Scotland. Digital technology has the potential to revolutionise every aspect of our lives and for those organisations that fully embrace it, the benefits will be significant.

In March of this year the Scottish Government published its digital strategy for Scotland, setting out ambitious plans for turning Scotland into a digitally-advanced nation and speaking this week in support of The Herald’s newest awards, Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, said that, while the tech industries are forecast to be Scotland’s fastest-growing sector over the next 10 years, every area of business will benefit from embracing digital technologies and enhancing digital skills.

And there is evidence that this is happening, not just in obvious sectors such as Scotland’s fast-growing space industry and advanced manufacturing facilities, but across the wider business landscape.

Forbes says:“Our general business base has shown huge innovation and has risen to the challenge over the last year and as businesses take advantage of online trade momentum created by the pandemic, we have pledged £100 million towards digital support. This is crucial for economic growth and meeting net-zero ambitions.”

And it is this twin challenge, of growing businesses while reducing the burden on the environment, where digital technology has a unique ability to deliver results. Earlier this year the Digital Economy Business Survey found that for 75% of businesses, digital technologies had positively impacted productivity, innovation and/or low carbon working and Scottish Government support has included a £16.5 million investment in the Net Zero Technology Centre, designed to accelerate energy transition projects that will help deliver a net zero economy.

At the same time the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review (STER) has aimed at  identifying potential areas of strength as they emerge.

“The review has given us a clear and ambitious blueprint to produce a consistent stream of technology start-ups that reach sustained profitability, a significant proportion at scale; benefiting job creation, inward investment and tax revenues,” says Forbes.

“Access to the EU digital single market promoted innovation, growth and exchange of ideas across borders and Post-Brexit we must find new ways of ensuring Scotland continues to attract talent and investment, enabling our digital technologies sector and wider digital economy to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world.

“The economic potential of Scotland’s tech sector is high and we are grasping the opportunity and moving at pace to implement STER recommendations.”

But the impact of these gains will be greatly reduced if Scotland turns into a two-tier nation, separated across a digital divide and so to prevent this the Scottish Government established the £48 million Connecting Scotland programme to reduce digital exclusion during the pandemic by providing devices, an internet connection, training and support for those in greatest need.

In partnership with  local authorities and third sector organisations, the programme has delivered over 40,000 devices.

Forbes says: “By year end we aim to have brought 60,000 people online.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed our way of life.”

and we will ensure people and businesses have the skills, connectivity and devices required to fully participate and reap the economic, social and cultural benefits that Scotland’s trusted digital goods and services will deliver.”

The Herald Digital Transformation Awards in association with Digital World aim to recognise innovative use of digital technology across healthcare, education, communities and the Third Sector as well as in the wider business community and there is still time to enter.

The closing date is Friday, 10 September and the awards ceremony will take place on Thursday, 4 November.

For full details visit https://newsquestscotlandevents.com/events/digitransform21/