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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.


2012-03-21 08:16

Every lttle helps.As does ensuring mobile phone coverage doesn’t stop at Kintyres borders!
Thee Forsaken One
2012-03-21 09:08

It would be nice if those rolling out these broadband programmes would remember there are large swathes of North Lanarkshire that struggle to get more than 1 MB but all providers will charge you as if you’re getting at least 2 to 5.
Robert Louis
2012-03-21 09:58

Some parts of Scotland don’t have broadband – well not in the modern sense.
Thee Forsaken One
2012-03-21 12:09

Indeed but when all the central Scotland upgrades announced so far seem to be circling around where you live, it is rather frustrating, especially when you’re being charged for more.

2012-03-21 10:45

Aye indeed. The ISP’s bonus racket.
Would it be too difficult to meter band width and reverse the current see-saw arrangement – and ensure costs were directly connected to ISP performance?

Notional up-to speeds being matched with actual down-to costs would clean up this industry.

Saltire Groppenslosh
2012-03-21 09:42

This is an issue that should have been sorted out a number of years ago – for everyone that wants it (businesses and private individuals).
edinburgh quine
2012-03-21 16:25

BT are making zillions in profits. Why are they not being forced to plough it back into infrastructure. If we still owned the flamin’ company, we’d all have broadband by now.
2012-03-21 18:47

In some ways its good, 40Mb will soon be 80MB as standard and possibly 120Mb in future with a software upgrade bringing us up to the speed of some of our Scandinavian cousins and as its FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) it doesnt matter how far away you are from your exchange, just how far you are from the green cabinet on the street so speeds are more likely to be those advertised.

The one thing that does bother me is that the network infrastructure supporting this isnt that great so we will still have the same download limits of around 40GB per month, at 80Mb how fast will you donwload your 40GB limit?
red kite
2012-03-21 20:28

All good in theory. Where we need the money spent is on new cables and fibre. That’s called infrastructure.

“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.” Actually many business people nowadays have at least half an idea what they want from the internet. And spending money on consultant type stuff should be very specific. The general “helpline” and leaflet stuff is often well below what I’d call helpful. Hopefully the ‘ask the expert’ resource will not just be a call centre redirecting questions to another ‘resource’.

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