Upgrading Scotland's connectivity 'could boost economy by £5.3 billion'

Investment in full fibre and mobile connectivity in Scotland could boost the economy by more than £5.3 billion and unlock tens of thousands of jobs over the next five years, according to new research.

The findings are revealed in the first-ever Digital Connectivity Index from Virgin Media O2 and economic modelling expert Oxford Analytica, which has found that investment could provide the major economic boost to regions across Scotland.

Specifically, it has calculated that Glasgow City Region would benefit to the tune of £1.24bn, Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region (£1.08bn), Tay Cities Region (£463 million), Aberdeen City Region (£440m), Ayrshires (£182m) and South of Scotland (£161m) – and unlocking a potential 41,746 jobs altogether.

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'The importance of digital connectivity to Scotland’s future couldn’t be clearer,' says Virgin Media O2 (file image). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

The index uses thousands of OECD datapoints to measure how people and organisations can connect with one another and the rest of the world through high-quality internet access. It found that the UK is currently ranked joint eighth out of 24 such countries publishing complete digital connectivity datasets, just ahead of Germany, Portugal and Ireland.

Additionally, it said that if the UK were to become the OECD leader, it may unlock consistently higher gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates (0.88 per cent) every year, equating to a further £69.78bn and 510,000 jobs between now and 2026.

Lutz Schüler, chief executive officer of Virgin Media O2, said: “The importance of digital connectivity to Scotland’s future couldn’t be clearer, and the role we play as an industry more profound.

“With economic growth, new jobs and a fairer society at stake, we’re already taking a lead with a commitment to invest £10bn over the next five years.

“We’re turning up the dial on the national recovery and helping the country to climb up the international connectivity league tables to create a brighter, more prosperous future for every corner of the UK.”

Scott Urban, senior advisor at Oxford Analytica, said: “The Digital Connectivity Index shows telecom’s key contribution to levelling-up through spurring higher growth and creating new jobs.”

Upgrading

The research has been commissioned by Virgin Media O2, as part of its mission to upgrade the UK. The company’s plans include expanding 5G coverage to cover 50 per cent of the population by 2023 and upgrading its entire fixed network to full fibre to the premises by 2028.

This is alongside the company’s continued gigabit roll-out, which will see speeds of 1.1 gigabits per second delivered across its entire broadband network in Scotland before the end of the year, and its mobile network upgrade – providing a 4G upgrade to 11,600 postcodes in Scotland since the start of the year, including Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, St Johnstone's McDiarmid Park and Musselburgh Racecourse.

The report has also revealed that up to a tenth of those with a household income of £15,000 a year or less do not have an internet connection at home, whilst those living in rural areas are twice as likely to report suffering from poor internet connections as those living in urban areas.

Virgin Media O2 has been tackling this by the likes of helping launch the UK’s first ever National Databank – providing free mobile data to people in need.

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