9. Let's get on through connectivity
The Scottish Government has a vision for Scotland to be a world class digital nation by 2020. A key part of that will be developing future-proofed infrastructure that delivers world class digital connectivity across the country, through a combination of fixed, mobile and wireless technologies.
A significant step towards the delivery of this infrastructure was taken in 2013 with the agreement of two major infrastructure contracts with BT as part of our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme. This will extend superfast broadband access to those parts of Scotland that won't be served commercially and enhance backhaul availability, which will be necessary to support further infrastructure improvements in future. Over £410 million is being invested in the programme, which comprises two regional projects - one in the Highlands and Islands and one for the rest of Scotland to cover the whole of the country. Alongside commercial coverage, the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme will ensure that 85% of premises in Scotland have access to fire broadband by the end of 2015/16 and 95% by 2017/18.
The Scottish Government has also established Community Broadband Scotland ( CBS) to support those rural communities that are unlikely to have a superfast solution delivered by the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, develop and deliver their own broadband solutions. The assistance that CBS is providing, working alongside the Digital Scotland programme, will ensure that no part of Scotland is left behind.
The planned roll out of fibre broadband provides an immediate opportunity to highlight the benefits of getting online and to showcase possible future uses. Working with our partners, we will therefore accompany infrastructure improvements with a programme of demand stimulation as part of the "Lets Gets On" campaign for the rest of Scotland intervention area. This will both highlight the benefits of getting online for the first time, as well as the benefits of accessing faster speeds such as home entertainment, communication, flexible working and access to services that come from faster speeds which will in turn help to drive demand for next generation broadband. This approach is being mirrored in the Highlands and Islands through the 'Our Digital Zone' programme. This comprises a series of road shows that will visit venues across the region to help people make the most of broadband and digital technology. Other activity will include advertising on the vans, cabinets and the other estate associated with the next generation roll out and the work of a group of community officers who will engage directly with local people through bespoke meetings and attending appropriate community events. All such activity will link people with local training and support to help get on line or to improve their online skills, as well as signposting them to the broad range of internet service providers that might be in a position to meet their particular service needs.
Our infrastructure ambitions extend beyond the current investment programme. Our aim is for Scotland to have a truly world class infrastructure where people living, working and visiting Scotland will be able to communicate anywhere, anytime, using any device, instantly. This provides a further, long term opportunity to encourage digital participation as citizens no longer worry about access to the internet, caps on usage, slow upload or download speeds, patchy mobile coverage or mobile signal dropout and businesses take advantage of real time data to deliver innovation and improve productivity.
Through our Demonstrating Digital programme , we are positioning Scotland as a country that encourages world-class innovation in mobile and wireless technologies as a potential stimulus to economic growth. The projects supported through the programme will showcase new technologies and test new delivery models to give the people of Scotland a glimpse of their digital future today.
An example of this is a project to extend mobile services to the
isle of Coll - which has never previously been regarded as
commercially viable by mobile operators.
We are collaborating with Development Coll - a community-led development trust - to support the establishment of a mobile mast, which will be owned and maintained by the community itself. By meeting the operating costs, and allowing mobile operators to deliver services over the mast, the project will extend availability of voice and data services to the island for the first time and could also enable delivery of additional wireless services such as wi-fi hotspots. Vodafone is supporting the project and, with planning permission now secured for the mast, we expect a mobile service to be available on the islands by summer 2014. If successful, the model could potentially be replicated in other parts of Scotland, extending access to mobile services and increasing participation across the country.
The Scottish Wide Area Network ( SWAN) Programme is another flagship initiative that will deliver connectivity benefits to communities across the country. It will deliver a single, secure communications network for the public sector and underpin the development of innovative and integrated public services that give people access to the services they need, when and where they need them. Services available to public bodies through SWAN range from wi-fi in public buildings to alternative sources of affordable backhaul for community broadband projects, all of which will make it easier for the public sector to connect with citizens across Scotland.
In order to ensure world class levels of digital participation we will:
- work with Business Gateway, local authorities and the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme to deliver a series of events promoting faster broadband and the benefits of the internet for domestic and business audiences.
- develop a route-map for delivering world class digital infrastructure that will enable people to connect anywhere, anytime and using any device.
- work with industry, community groups and other partners, to implement projects which have the potential to extend mobile and broadband coverage to areas where there is currently little or no service.
- maximise community benefit from the Scottish Wide Area Network programme.