Action to improve Digital connectivity progresses


Today the Highland Council Recovery Board agreed a set of moves aimed at speeding up Highland Council’s journey towards a better, more inclusive digital future.

The delivery of an ‘enhanced digital infrastructure’ has been recognised as a critical key part of the economic recovery of the Highlands, following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highland has a specific set of challenges due to its geography that need to be addressed. Efforts must now be made to influence local partners agencies, UK and Scottish Governments on the need for rural, and in some cases urban, areas to benefit from full fibre or superfast internet connectivity.

To take forward this aim the Board agreed to put forward a lobbying case by the end of September which sets out the key areas for co-ordinated action with local partners in Highland, Scottish and UK governments. Added to this the Board was keen to see an acceleration of spend of the digital funding available through the Highland City Region Deal and it will now also be investigated how practical it will be to deliver full fibre capability within future Highland Council capital projects.

To ensure that all Councillors are aware of the challenges and opportunities that improved digital connectivity can offer every household and business in Highland a seminar will be held in the weeks ahead that can showcase the case for more urgent action from all concerned to complete the project.

Chair of the Recovery Board, Cllr Alasdair Christie, said: “This is a perfect opportunity for the Council working with partners to push hard for Highland to be recognised as the area in most need and will place us in a stronger position to ask for national funding.

“This crucial work will have significant positive outcomes, in reducing inequalities currently experienced in the more rural parts of Highland. No areas of Highland should be left behind during this digital transformation as this will impact our recovery.”

The Scottish Government has committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045 at the latest and the public sector is legally required to support this ambition.

Cllr Christie added: “Digital inclusion is critical to enable the better use of technology to support behaviour change and reducing the need to travel, thus helping the environment.”

Today’s report to the Recovery Board also recommended that the Council should continue to press for close collaboration between with the UK and Scottish Governments, given the funding available from both. This is clearly a complex and politically sensitive area, but the benefits from joint working are likely to deliver the greatest benefits to achieving the aim of ensuring that the digital infrastructure required to power and sustain economic recovery is delivered.

24 Aug 2020