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Discovering Digital in the Highlands

Picture for Rene Looper Rene Looper

April 1st 2016

Organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the ‘Discover Digital 2016’ conference and business showcase in Inverness, brought together hundreds of people across the region, both in real life and virtually, to open their minds to and discuss the potential of digital technology for our businesses.

As the first event of its kind in the Highlands and Islands, it was an opportunity for SMEs to directly engage with global digital businesses such as Google, Microsoft, and IBM. It was also a first chance to experience augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printing and drone technology.

The day was introduced by Alex Paterson Chief Executive of HIE, who outlined the ambition for the Highlands and Islands to have the best in digital connectivity to ensure growth and development in business, but also in education, health and our day to day lives.

The rise in digital connectivity across Scotland has meant that we can challenge traditional business models and adapt, create and put into effect, new and alternative models to the way we work and sell our products and services. However, in order to do this effectively, we all require the infrastructure to support these aspirations. Mr Paterson said that as of the end of 2016, 84% of all business premises across the Highlands and Islands will be able to access fibre-based broadband, which will radically change the way that we connect with people, customers, audiences, partners, stakeholders and more.

To encapsulate these opportunities, the delegates at the conference were treated to 3 fascinating keynote talks from Abbey Oladapo from Google Garage, Stevie Grier from Microsoft and Sharon Moore from IBM.

Each speaker revealed the major opportunities digital technology offers us from being able to grow and develop engaging communication strategies across digital platforms including the web and social media. Mr Oladapo stressed that ‘every business has a story to tell’ and the businesses that find ways to communicate online grow twice as much as those businesses without a digital presence. They also create twice as many jobs and are 50% more likely to do business outside of their immediate area.


Mr Grier took us off down the road of Cloud Technology, focusing on how the mobility of accessing data from any device anywhere has, and will, radically transform how we conduct our business. Crucially, Grier stressed how cloud-based storage is a major cash saving for all businesses, making a particularly mind-blowing statement to stress the point: ‘If the public sector moved their big data to the cloud the UK could be out of debt in ten years’ time.’

Ms Moore talked about people, the people behind the technology, those connecting with us on our social media, visiting our website and buying our products or services virtually. Moore outlined how using the traditional method of demographics to identify and understand your audience is now outdated, leaving much to be desired for the digital marketer. Rather a psychographic approach will yield better results, after all, we are all different people in different places. She stressed how we should be ‘applying intelligence to understand our audience and make it feel like they’ve had a serendipitous encounter with your business’.


The conference also offered up the chance to think big about the future and what it will look like from a digital perspective. Between augmented and virtual reality, it looks like the future will bring a much more ‘real-life’ experience to digitally enhanced content.

Given that a conference with a purely digital angle had never happened before in the Highlands and Islands, it was a major success. Eden Court was packed with SMEs from all industries, the buzz before and after the talks and breakout sessions was clearly evident, with ideas brimming of what the future will bring for businesses and the people of the North of Scotland.


If you missed out on the chance to be at the conference you can still engage with all the content:

Visit the Highlands and Islands YouTube Channel to watch all the best bits, keynote talks and interviews

Search Twitter for #DiscoverDigital2016 to see all the conversation that took place on the day.

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