The aim of this report is to highlight the critical issues which must be addressed to ensure that Scotland’s electronic communications infrastructure is fit for purpose in a digital world and is at the heart of Scotland’s social, economic and cultural future.
The report first examines the current digital activity level in Scotland, in other parts of the UK and other countries. Digital connectivity is to the present day what railways and canals were to the first industrial revolution, but it is important that those in poorer or remote areas, who may already suffer from social exclusion, do not become further isolated.
The report, therefore, recommends that the Scottish Government recognises this and produces a framework and strategy for Scotland which reflects the Digital Britain objectives, but which takes proper account of distinctly Scottish issues, such as the extensive rural landscape. The UK Government has recently announced plans for more ambitious broadband coverage and speeds and Scotland must have its own plan to ensure maximum benefit for all of its citizens.
Other recommendations within the report include:
· The Scottish Government appoint a Minister with specific and unambiguous responsibility for designing, implementing and monitoring the Digital Scotland framework and strategy.
· A commitment to the upgrading of Scotland’s electronic communications infrastructure to ensure that Scotland is at the leading edge of UK regional and international Next Generation Access (NGA) deployment. As a guide, by 2015, no community in Scotland with more than 1000 residential and business premises is more than 2 miles from a fibre backhaul network. For smaller communities, the fibre backhaul network should be no more than 20 miles away, allowing wireless connection to the backhaul network.
· Reform Scotland also calls for the Scottish Government to commission a detailed analysis of possible funding options, including private and European Union investment.
Scotland is one of the most digitally literate countries in the world but not upgrading to next generation networks as quickly as other competitor countries could seriously disadvantage our economic and cultural health. Ministerial leadership is crucial to establishing a clear and ambitious strategy which involves much greater co-ordination in developing the various strands of digital policy and a phased commitment to provide high-speed broadband coverage to the vast majority of Scotland.