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At the recent ScotChain17 conference, BB spoke to MSP Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s minister for business, innovation and energy. Mr Wheelhouse, perhaps strangely, had a lot to say about the country’s digital technology sector – and fintech in particular. Over to Beyonce:
“It [tech] contributes really strongly, it’s a rapidly growing sector,” said Wheelhouse. He underscored that Scotland’s burgeoning tech sector has enjoyed the healthiest business development outside of London.
“It’s now contributing around £4 billion of gross-value added annually to the Scottish economy, and more than 70,000 are employed in the sector, but some estimates [put that] at 90,000. We [also] have seen 43% growth in the number of tech businesses in Scotland, which is the fastest growth outside of London.
“It’s [also] a very dynamic sector of the economy, and it enables other parts of the economy to function well of-course, because tech contributes to the growth of other sectors.
Wheelhouse went on to stress that there is also evidence of reciprocal growth where, for example, Scottish initiatives can see SMEs advise incumbents on their next move. He said: “Innovation can be hugely important for smaller businesses. It’s a great opportunity for businesses to access parts of the economy and sectors where companies are needing to innovate themselves, to change their business models, reform services or the way they deliver business to their customers.
“Small businesses can access that market, [also growing] through means like CivTech, a platform we’ve developed to help SMEs to access public procurement opportunities, to help the public sector take the benefit of that expertise that’s grown up in the private sector, and translate that technology and innovation for public sector delivery.”
Realising Scotland’s digital potential
But, Wheelhouse conceded that while this expansion is promising, it is not uniform across the country. He outlined that a number of public sector services, such as digital communications, are yet to be fully embraced by Scotland.
He said: “I think we need to make sure that they’re accessible. We’re trying to go to a great degree of effort in making services more able to be accessed by members of the public wherever they are in the country.
“Digital technology can underpin greater efficiency and delivery of public services, [and encourage] greater collaboration – allowing people to engage with each-other, discuss matters of importance, to manage businesses and organisations collectively, not necessarily having to be physically in the same place.
He continued, claiming that a digital transformation could also act as a powerful marketing tool for the nation as a whole. Wheelhouse sad: “We’re [also] trying to use digital technology as how we promote Scotland as a country, how we engage in running government and be more efficient ourselves – which we can always do better at.
“It’s a hugely exciting opportunity and I would hope that Scotland – as a country that is very much at the forefront of the key areas of innovation in digital technology – can grasp the nettle and harness that opportunity and be seen globally as a leader in this area.”
Women in Scotland’s tech sector
Wheelhouse also noted that Scotland, while having a number of female role models in tech, still lacks in representation – another core area for development. He commented on attracting women into the technology sector: “It’s proving quite a challenge, but it’s an important challenge that we have to meet.
“If we’re to achieve our full economic potential we have to have women engaged and embraced in the economy more generally, but [also] specifically in areas like science, technology, engineering and maths, or STEM. It’s really important that we up our game, [approximately] 18% of people in the industry are women, whereas its 39% in the in the economy more generally. So we’re not doing as well in technology as we should do.
He noted that fostering a reciprocal environment in diversity could be the key that Scotland needs. Wheelhouse said: “I meet on a day to day basis in my ministerial role exceptionally talented women in all areas of science, engineering, and business, and it’s about trying to make sure we identify those individuals who are willing to come forward as ambassadors to provide, if you like, role models, for more young women coming through.”
Iona Murray conducts regular blockchain interviews on her YouTube channel Blockchain Beyonce. She’s spoken to many of the country’s leading thinkers including Professor Bill Buchanan OBE, Margaret Moore from Sopra Steria and covered Scotland’s recent HackChain blockchain hackathon.
We’ll have more from Beyonce in the near future.
You can read DIGIT‘s most recent exploration of diversity in Scotland’s tech sector here.