Paul Hanrahan
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The Scottish Government recently refreshed its digital strategy with a promise to deliver greater connectivity than ever before and a push to build a workforce with more robust digital skills. What does this mean for the cultural sector?


According to the white paper compiled by Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, the government intends to use Scotland’s digital strategy to bring the country up to speed in a number of areas. Cultural and creative organisations will be among those affected by the renewed drive for digital skills and infrastructure.


What’s Involved?

The strategy sets targets around jobs, skills and infrastructure.

The Scottish Government is seeking to address the current undersupply of digital skills and have confirmed an outline for a new Digital Growth Fund. Connected to this is a pledge to create the conditions in which Scotland’s digital technologies industries can thrive, working towards a target of employing 150,000 in digital technology roles over the next five years.

Plans are also in place to launch a new round of funding for community digital inclusion projects, along with an expansion to Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter. This should help to get more organisations involved in the national movement to promote digital skills. This is one for cultural organisations to keep an eye on if you’re seeking to improve your own digital skills or if you’re working with communities and can offer support to communities through your engagement work.

On the infrastructure side of things, the government has set a target of ensuring that every premise in Scotland is able to access broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps (Megabits per second) by 2021. For context, the average speed just now for broadband in the UK’s urban areas is 28Mbps with significantly faster speeds available in areas with access to super fast fibre optic networks. There’s a further push on accessibility with Scotland’s plan to urge the UK government and Ofcom to apply the “outside-in” principle when auctioning spectrum for 5G deployment. This is designed to ensure that operators deliver coverage to the most rural areas before they deploy in urban centres.

Scotland’s digital strategy has three other particularly relevant areas to note.


Digital Enhancement

Beefing up digital skills across the workforce is something which will have enormous impact on growing and retaining audiences. Having the funds and skillsets within the community to bring in digital marketing experts and social media managers, for example, brings a whole new level of marketing strategy to organisations. For smaller businesses, the increased availability of information and skills could well help improve access to these marketing tools for everyone in the organisation.


Connectivity for All

The promise of 30Mbps broadband for every premises in Scotland is a particular boost for remote and rural Scottish cultural organisations and audiences. At the moment, many people and businesses in rural Scotland have limited access to a robust broadband or mobile internet (though there are stand out areas of good connectivity). This then limits their ability to take advantage of online engagement strategies that require good broadband or mobile internet.



The issue of data privacy is particularly significant. Firstly, the UK government’s upcoming Digital Economy Bill will be supplemented with codes of practice around ensuring privacy. Secondly, the coming of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 will put a much higher level of responsibility on UK businesses to ensure their customers’ privacy. Organisations need to be confident that their own information is stored safely or else risk considerable financial and reputational damage. (Read more about this in our summary of whats coming from GDPR.)


the opportunity

Creative and cultural organisations will remain a core part of an increasingly digital Scotland, but many organisations are relying on the government to provide the a more robust infrastructure. The opportunity is that if the Scottish Government are able to meet the targets it could mean greater access to digital engagement tools to Scottish audiences and cultural businesses.


Main image credit: Smartphone Photography by Marco Verch (CC BY 2.0).