Digital Skills and the National Economic Forum

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
18 November 2015

A very warm welcome to everyone here today. As always it is fantastic to see such a broad and diverse range of people here at the National Economic Forum…….

It’s almost exactly two years since the National Economic Forum last concentrated on digital issues. The fact that we’re returning to the subject so soon gives a good indication of how important it is. It is important to our society, it is important to how we live our lives these days but it is fundamentally important to our economy we are seeking to build in the future. And it’s maybe worth starting by reflecting on just how much has happened over those two years.

In late 2013, the Digital Scotland Superfast broadband project hadn’t fully started. Now, it’s making broadband available to approximately 7,000 properties every single week. By the end of 2017, 95 per cent of properties across Scotland will have access to superfast broadband.

To give some idea of the scale of progress – two years ago, only four per cent of homes in the Highlands could get superfast broadband – now, it’s 59 per cent. By the end of next year, that proportion will increase to 84 per cent.

And we see that as a staging post, rather than an endpoint. We are working with local communities to reach the remaining properties in the Highlands and across Scotland, and we are also working with mobile operators to upgrade mobile coverage.

But of course, getting the right infrastructure in place is one thing. We also need to ensure that people have the skills and confidence they need in order to make maximum use technology and infrastructure.

Some of that is about digital participation in its widest sense – ensuring that people of all ages and all generations are able to go online. Although there is still significantly more to do, we’ve made good progress there – partly and quite significantly through the work being led by the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations. Go On UK published research last month showed that more than four/five of the people in Scotland now have basic digital skills – that’s the highest level in any nation of the UK.

However it is also very important to have more people with the skills to take up jobs which use digital technology, and we need businesses of all sizes to take advantage of new technology. That’s going to be the main focus of my speech this morning.

Read the full speech at the National Economic Forum.

Discussion Papers from the event are also available in PDF format:

Developing a Digital Strategy

The Value of Digital Marketing

Closing the Skills Gap

Cyber Resilience

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