More than 350 companies in Highlands and Islands are being supported to get online and make better use of broadband through an initiative launched by Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment.
With a quarter of Scottish businesses currently not online, the ICT business engagement programme – a collaborative project between the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Business Gateway – will invest £864,000 in the Highlands and Islands, to help small and medium sized companies (SMEs) exploit digital opportunities.
By developing an online presence, companies can attract new customers, increase their productivity and improve the skills of their staff.
Support will include workshops, seminars and events to help companies develop their own ICT action plans, and an online Business IT Guide with factsheets, diagnostics and an ‘ask the expert’ resource.
Announcing the programme at the Think Digital Conference, Mr Neil said:
“Businesses can reap substantial benefits from getting online. They can reach new markets and customers, increase productivity and, ultimately, grow their company.
“As part of Digital Infrastructure Action Plan, we are keen to improve business skills and digital participation rates across Scotland. To do this we need to support our SMEs to build an online presence and drive business through the internet.
“The ICT Engagement Programme in the Highlands and Islands will complement the next generation roll-out activities already underway led by Highland and Islands Enterprise. The programme will provide additional resources to engage with businesses not online and support and develop their knowledge and capability to exploit the benefits of having an online presence and trading online.
“Today’s announcement comes as BT announces enhanced connectivity to over 150,000 homes and businesses as part of its £2.5 billion fibre broadband programme. Superfast broadband opens many doors for our business communities, and we need to work closely with SMEs to make sure they have the insight, skills and capability to benefit from the opportunities open to them.”
Businesses adopting and fully exploiting ICT will increase their productivity gains. The programme ensure that SMEs in the region are able to upskill, and thereby to increase their business turnover, which will in turn, boost the local and national economy.
The two-year ICT engagement programme will lever in additional investment from Highland and Islands Enterprise and Business Gateway. It is anticipated that up to 365 businesses across H&I will be supported to get online and to make better use of the broadband available to them.
Support will include workshops, seminars and events to help companies develop their own ICT action plans, an online Business IT Guide with factsheets, diagnostics and an ‘ask the expert’ resource.
The programme is set to roll out across the rest of Scotland in the coming months. The Scottish Government has already committed funding of up to £1 million each year over the spending review period to support work in relation to the digital economy.