We won't require a cyber superhero

THERE has been talk recently about Scotland having the potential to be one of the cyber world leaders. And there is nothing more frustrating than the occasional response of 'really?'

Small businesses are using hi-tech methods to forge ahead

The answer is categorically yes - and why not? We have the whole kit of parts – we just need to assemble.

If we are holding our breath waiting for a superhero with a big initial emblazoned across their chest, we are looking in the wrong direction. Being a cyber-leading nation is all about small business owners and being collectively ready. The real heroes will be the micro-businesses, charities, corner shops,membership bodies and the entrepreneurs, those with multiple businesses, those trading by smartphone – the backbone of our economy.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Scots have long suffered a personality mismatch. On the one hand, we are a nation of entrepreneurs and inventors. Yet on the other, we are masters of self-deprecation, preferring to play down our success and skills. Now is not the time to underplay our ambition or what we can offer. The opportunity is on us as never before, to define how we can lead the vision for cyber leadership.

Currently the number of people running their own business is estimated to be one in seven, rising to one in five by 2020. Moving forwards, enterprise and business support needs to be focused on the user, with simple, quick access to the right resource throughout their journey, backed by a more joined-up approach by delivery partners. Scottish Government’s Cyber Leader’s Board is already addressing these very issues.

A future path or guide for Scottish businesses of all sizes to follow will also work. If we can provide maturity models of simple levels of standard for even the smallest of businesses to use – and guidance for people to know where to turn – then we will see that stepchange in cyber readiness.

It’s happened elsewhere, there are great models in equally small nations, with Estonia, Norway and Belfast growing incubator models for business.

If we work collectively safeguarding that backbone of our economy, Scotland can become more investable.

So where is that kit of parts?

In November, we will see the second Scottish Cyber Awards take place. This was set up specifically to honour the leadership and technical ability of Scotland’s cyber talent.

What mattered was that last year small companies entered and won, leading the chase in developing skills and talent.

Should the Cyber City Deal go through, with the shared vision of Abertay, St. Andrews and Highlands and Islands Universities, then Scotland will boast the first cyberquarter in the UK. Add to that the talk of shared data centres, cloud facilities, the Cyber Academy at Napier University, and Edinburgh University has become a Centre of Excellence.

Being a world leader doesn’t necessarily mean leading the whole world in everything. It means defining what that model could be and where Scotland could lead the way. It means speaking up and saying “we can do this”. No capes required.

Mandy Haeburn-Little is Chief Executive of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, which is hosting the Scottish Cyber Awards at Edinburgh’s Sheraton Hotel on 22 November.