One of the key themes of the City Region Deal is digital infrastructure and this week we hear from industry leader Jeanette Forbes, CEO of PCL Group on why digital innovation is vital to industry.

As a board member of the Scottish Government’s Technology Advisory Group (TAG) and as TAG’s representative on the Digital Scotland – Business Excellence Partnership board, Jeanette Forbes, CEO of the PCL Group, has been instrumental in promoting the need for greater digital connectivity and its resultant economic benefits to the Aberdeen City Region for several years.

The Scottish Government’s goal is for Scotland to become a world class digital nation by 2020, through collaboration between public sector agencies from national and local government with business and industry.

As a businesswoman who has run her own IT company in Aberdeen for almost 16 years Jeanette is acutely aware of how crucial it is that the Aberdeen City Region Deal has the ambition and resource to put in place a transformational digital programme of activity.

“Digital technology revolution is the next big thing in the oil and gas sector around the world with the potential to make a huge impact on how the industry operates and to change the current workforce,” she said. “Some estimates suggest up to 47% of all jobs will be automated within the next two decades and at a time when the industry is looking at costs, in particular the uplift costs of extraction from our mature field, this is going to be a major consideration.

“To support this we must also ensure that we anchor the supply chain in order to protect and create jobs. Our region’s future depends on the strength of our business base and its ability to grow and support our economy. We compete in a global marketplace and we must have the same digital advantages as businesses in other parts of the UK and in other oil-based economies such as Norway and Dubai where businesses benefit by being well-connected with the rest of the world.

“A more cohesive digital infrastructure is not just a tool for the energy sector; it is vital for every other sector of industry. Studies consistently show that companies which are high users of the internet and other forms of digital technology grow more quickly, export more and create more jobs. The Aberdeen City Region needs to provide that digital support for all our industries and businesses – including those in rural areas currently operating at a disadvantage because of poor or non-existent digital provision.

“Supporting business is only part of the story. A robust digital infrastructure benefits everyone who lives, works and visits here. Removing the digital barriers to the gathering, sharing, utilisation and distribution of data between our citizens, public sector agencies, our transport infrastructure, our schools, universities and colleges opens the doors more widely to improved service provision and greater availability of information which will directly help improve quality of life for us all.

“The Aberdeen City Region Deal provides a real opportunity for us to work collaboratively to bring together a cohesive region-wide digital structure, which will avoid duplication of effort and waste of resource and provide the very highest standards of connectivity for our region and for the rest of Scotland and the UK.”