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Getting Scotland ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

A report published today (20 February) sets out recommendations on economic development, education and employment to ensure that Scotland reaps the rewards of the digital and automation revolutions.

In “Automatic…For The People?“, SCDI, BT Scotland, ScotlandIS and RSE are calling on governments, industry and civic organisations to provide strategic leadership and involve all parts of society in creating a national vision and action plan to guide Scotland through the challenges and opportunities of automation and digital disruption.

Focusing on the key issue of how Scotland can harness the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to increase economic and social prosperity, the report was informed by automation and digitalisation analysis from the Fraser of Allander Institute. It identifies new business and employment opportunities as well as the areas of economic activity that are most likely to be exposed to digital changes in Scotland.

The report includes 12 key recommendations on how Scotland can boost productivity and generate higher inclusive economic growth against a background of a reducing working age population.

Health and social care challenges offer opportunities for Scotland to exploit data-driven research and innovation to find new solutions. Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Centre for Work-based Learning’s forthcoming Skills 4.0 report highlights that as more routine and non-routine tasks are automated, the demand for self-management, social intelligence, and innovation skills will grow and the need for specialist upskilling in areas like artificial intelligence becoming essential. In education, digital thinking needs to become embedded throughout the curriculum to create a culture where innovation and digital exploitation is pursued naturally.

Matt Lancashire, Director of Policy at SCDI, explained: “The report highlights the need for a national discussion about a Fourth Industrial Revolution strategy. The timing of this report is pivotal as Scotland is at a crossroads. There is a lot of good work on automation and digitalisation across the country but there needs to be an inclusive, joined-up strategy – with economic and social dimensions – as is being adopted in frontrunner countries.”

Mark Dames, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at BT Scotland, said: “If Scotland is to reap the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the country needs to become a truly digital nation, able to adopt new technologies quickly and adapt them for economic and social gain. Our education system will need to shift towards a focus on digital skills from the early years onwards and our workforces will need to continually upskill, so they can respond to highly disruptive marketplaces.”

Polly Purvis, CEO at ScotlandIS, added: “Automation will enable more and more businesses and public-sector organisations to increase productivity and free up staff time to concentrate on more valuable elements of their work. It provides a huge economic opportunity for Scotland and one that we are increasingly well placed to harness with our innovative digital technologies companies, world-class computing science research base and skilled technology workforce. However, we need to consider and test longer-term policy options, such as reduced working hours and a job guarantee, to ensure inclusive growth across Scotland in the future.”