Scotland’s Digital Infrastructure: The Government’s Action Plan for 2020 (update 07.06.12)

Avatar of Hannah Rudman By Hannah Rudman
19 May 2012

The headline bandwidth figures are 40-80Mbs for 80-95% of Scotland’s premises by 2020, with the best connections physically possible pledged for rural areas. (Update 07.06.12) I’ve just heard first person Infrastructure Minister Alex Neil announce that £250m will be invested in the next 3 years in rural broadband – mainly in the highlands and islands. The government expects the private sector to match that, investing c. £250m in urban areas. Fibre optic cable will be dug into the landscape of the Highlands and Islands to provide a substantial uplift to rural bandwidth, although it might not reach 40mb. The government is also making a seed fund available opening this month of £5m for communities that want to scale up their broadband now, through community and local initiatives ahead of the roll-out of the national programme.

(Its interesting that there are over 3000 community projects running in Sweden in the countryside – “Fibre to the Farm” involves each community member pledging that they will dig their own trenches/create overhead cable carriers from their house or farm to the road: the provider then comes and puts the cable ducts and fibre in the roads, each participant pays €3-4k one-off connection fee. Sweden are also pushing for 50% of usage of their bigger bandwidth broadband to be used by community and citizen services – healthcare digital visits, e-school, etc.)

This 2012 action plan outlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to a world-class, future proofed infrastructure that will deliver digital connectivity across the whole of Scotland by 2020. Scotland’s Digital Future: Infrastructure Action Plan sets out the Scottish Government’s commitment and the steps that will be taken to deliver world-class, future proofed digital infrastructure across all of Scotland by 2020, with an interim milestone of delivering a step change by 2015.

The purpose of the plan is to deliver a step change in people’s ability to access the internet, enabling people to connect from their homes, businesses and while on the move. These improvements to Scotland’s digital infrastructure are essential if Scotland is to maintain and improve the ability of Scottish businesses to compete in a global market place; be successful in attracting inward investment; transform the delivery of public services; respond to the challenges of a low carbon economy and have vibrant, strong and connected communities in cities, towns and rural areas. “This will make a major contribution to the Government’s purpose of making Scotland a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth for all of Scotland” pledges the report. Crieff Hydro Hotel was touted as an exemplar business – reporting turnover increases of £14m (from £4m to £18m) having installed fibre optic broadband (which they offer free to guests and conferences).

Next Generation technology opportunities:

Scotland can be THE Destination for clean, green, data centres – we have the natural environment to deliver this.

The business sector of Scotland will be able to move wholescale to the cloud with all services (delivery of e-services, taking e-payments, operational infrastructure systems). This is great news – I currently can’t advise highland and island organisations to move onto the cloud business critical services like e-payments as the satellite bandwidth is too slow, and latency issues with payment systems are a security risk. Cloud computing is also greener as clients can be thinner and organisations don’t need to upkeep servers on site.

Different job opportunities. For example, Apple in Ireland employ call centre support staff who are homeworkers based in rural and remote locations: the essential advertised job criteria includes that you can prove you have min spec 5mb down, 1 mb up. Amazon’s criteria for remote and rural workers is 4mb down.

Faster trades and faster online gaming: real-time trading in Scotland will be possible without latency, with better ping times – meaning more auctions, games and trades won.

Less latency also means a better user experience with VoIP, teleconferencing and live streaming services, meaning more people will become comfortable with using them, and they’ll become a normal method of undertaking a meeting, event or training session.

Different job opportunities and better business connectivity means that service businesses can be set up wherever, and people can work from wherever, hopefully meaning less rural population decline, as well as far greener working practices with demand for less business travel and commuting.

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