Unlocking the digital potential of rural areas could also expand annual business turnover in those regions by at least £1.44bn, says the report commissioned by Amazon and published by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Rural England.
It says that, even at lower levels, a digital drive by rural businesses could deliver £1.2bn of Gross Value Added (GVA) for the rural economy.
Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon, said: “Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen opportunities for rural entrepreneurs transformed through e-commerce, better delivery services and growing access to fast broadband.
“But as today’s report shows, there’s much further to go before anyone can say the rural-urban divide has closed. Embracing digital technology not only benefits the economy.
“It also allows rural communities to combine great quality of life with access to global opportunities. We are working to play our part in helping achieve the report’s ambitions through programmes such as Amazon Academy events and webinars, where last year we helped hundreds of rural businesses learn how to go digital.”
The report says Scotland’s rural economy already contributes £30bn of GVA – regional GDP growth – in the UK.
The report found that the south east, south west and eastern England, which have the biggest share of rural businesses in the UK, are set to benefit the most from greater digital adoption. Scotland accounts for 9.6 per cent of all rural businesses in the UK.
Dr Jane Atterton of the Rural Policy Centre at SRUC said the prospect of a “substantial economic boost” from digital in more remote Scottish areas was clear.
Among SRUC and Rural England’s recommendations for a digital drive in the Scottish countryside are establishing hubs in rural towns which businesses can use or visit for better connectivity, start-up workspace, hot-desk space and training.