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I recently spoke at the Scottish Council for Development & Industry's Productive Places conference in Glasgow which explored the City Region deals and how these can be maximised to create more liveable, enlightened and dynamic communities.

These important deals, which have already been agreed for Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, will have a major impact on both local and national economies, and will undoubtedly change the face of these regions for the better.

However, if we are to address the slowing growth of Scotland’s economy compared to the rest of the UK we need to ensure these investments of both money and new ideas strike the right balance between fixing old problems and addressing new challenges – especially when it comes to infrastructure.

It is undeniable that Scotland’s public transport needs attention, and has done for some time. And if we are to increase regional competitiveness and support growth across Scotland it is vital that local governments, agencies and businesses are able to influence decisions when it comes to road, rail and air.

Yet, when you consider the agenda for future cities – low carbon, connected and smart – these older problems seem much less complicated in comparison to the 21st century challenges we now face.

With a legacy for innovation and invention, Scotland is home to a thriving digital technology sector, specialising in games and software development, global business services, analytics and more. So if we are serious about having modern cities that are fit to deliver economic, social and environmental benefit for the future, then what we need is new future-proof digital infrastructure that can grow in terms of both capacity and geographical spread.

Countless cities across the world have already taken this step and are now reaping the benefits. By installing new pure fibre networks they have secured Gigabit City status, supporting local business growth, inward investment, education, innovation and more.

In the US, Chattanooga, Tennessee is leading the Gigabit trail. In a recent interview, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke pointed to the new network as being the city’s main catalyst for a number of successes. Since its launch in 2009 the city has seen a 3.7 per cent drop in unemployment and population increases in its downtown area fuelling new leisure and retail businesses. The City is also reporting an increase in start-ups, having secured $50 million in new investment by 2014.

In Europe, the Stokab pure fibre network made Stockholm one of the world’s first Gigabit Cities as far back as 1994.

Owing to its investment in fibre optic infrastructure, Stockholm has a higher proportion of people working in high-tech companies than any other European country, with 18 per cent of the region’s total workforce employed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Start-ups have also found a home in the city, as it was recently listed in Forbes as one of the world’s best cities for start-ups to build their businesses. So far, it has saved the local government more than £200m in IT and telecoms services, delivering an estimated £1.5bn return on investment (according to Fredrik Sand from Stockholm Chamber of Commerce).

Closer to home, Peterborough has experienced a major transformation in recent years. It staved of competition from Moscow and Dubai to be crowned Smart City of the Year in 2015 – the same year it enjoyed record business start-up rates. The new Gigabit City network is also benefiting the local community by servicing a range of public sector sites including schools and hospitals.

It’s clear, therefore, that with new digital infrastructure, Scotland’s cities can realise their enormous potential and enable genuine social and economic growth while providing widespread access to information to benefit our communities. By making this investment in our cities, we can provide essential support to businesses and the people they serve whilst also forming the building blocks for distribution across all areas of the country – urban and rural.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): James McClafferty

Quelle/Source: The Herald, 01.10.2023

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