ABERDEEN could become Britain’s digital capital under ambitious plans to roll out free wi-fi across the city centre by the end of the year.
Around £20 million has been put aside from the recently announced £250m City Region Deal to boost digital infrastructure in the city.
A further £300,000 will be allocated from council budgets for works such as laying new fibre cables underground. The local authority wants to transform Aberdeen into one of the world’s most connected cities on a par with the capitals of eastern Asia.
Simon Haston, head of IT and transformation at Aberdeen City Council, said: “Within the year, we will have upgraded the council’s network which could attract private sector investment of potentially £30m over the next six years.
“The city centre wireless we’re looking at is what is called a full concession. That’s where the private sector pay for the infrastructure and get their returns through advertising or footfall.
“Types of diverse businesses require really good connectivity. It’s important to the oil and gas sector, but it’s also important for the wider economy.”
The City Region Deal was signed off by Scottish Secretary David Mundell and the Scottish Government in January. Part of the money will be used to fund an energy innovation centre and the expansion of Aberdeen harbour.
Both the city and Aberdeenshire councils agreed that investment was also needed to improve digital connectivity to boost economic growth.
Aberdeen City Council leader Jenny Laing said the creation of a new, world-class digital infrastructure could transform Aberdeen into one of Britain’s “smartest cities”. She said: “Bringing high-speed and free, wireless connectivity to the city centre – and eventually the wider area – will deliver massive benefits for schools, the public and businesses.
“With these plans, we are making a real statement to the global business community in terms of stimulating and attracting new investment into the city. This is what we mean when we talk about building a new digital economy.
“This is a genuine partnership between private and public sector with Aberdeen City Council at the heart of the transformation.”