Ambitious plans to deliver ultrafast broadband in Aberdeen City and Shire have lifted a top national UK award.
The North East of Scotland Digital Strategy, developed by Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council, picked up the Urban Network Award at the NextGen Conference in London.
The accolade was part of the annual 2013 Digital Challenge Awards, designed to recognise UK projects which promise to deliver “the best in next-generation digital access infrastructure innovation“.
The City and Shire councils are working in partnership to plough £2million each into ensuring ultrafast broadband can be delivered in the city and the surrounding area – with a further £5.58 million coming from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, along with a multi-million pound private sector investment.
The plans promise hugely improved broadband speeds and the acceleration of 4G wireless as well as wifi coverage for the North-east, helping to secure jobs, investment and new business growth.
Businesses wanting to locate in the region’s major business parks and development corridors need access to world-class ultrafast digital infrastructure to enable them to compete on an international basis – but while Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have the highest levels of broadband uptake in the UK, at 74% and 72% respectively, they have some of the slowest speeds.
The public and private sector investment, and a share of the UK Government’s Urban Broadband Fund as well as the Scottish Government’s Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, will all be used to increase speeds across the city.
The provision of ultrafast broadband will help accelerate economic growth, create employment, support the delivery of education services, and enable more cost-effective delivery of public services including tele-medicine, social care and council housing repairs.
The ‘Accelerate Aberdeen’ strategy was based on analysis from expert advisers on digital access, a survey of the region’s Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Business, a comprehensive digital needs assessment, and research undertaken by Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future.
Enterprise, Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee member Councillor Yvonne Allan, who attended the award presentation, said: “It is absolutely vital that a world-class city like Aberdeen has world-class digital connectivity for our business and for our citizens.
“A commitment to bring ultrafast broadband to Aberdeen is a key priority for this council, enshrined in our ‘Smarter Aberdeen’ policy document – and this award shows that we have the plans and the finance in place to make sure we deliver on our promise.”
Aberdeenshire Council leader Councillor Jim Gifford said: “The demand for improved broadband in the North-east is clear, and it is great that this innovative project has received recognition.
“This partnership approach allows us to bring benefits across Aberdeen City and Shire that will deliver noticeable improvements to a large audience.”