The delivery of public sector services in four Highland locations is to undergo a dramatic transformation thanks to a project that will bring new full fibre infrastructure – the fastest, most reliable digital connectivity – to the region.
As part of Capita’s Scotland-wide SWAN programme, the project will bring transformational and future-proof gigabit-speed services to schools, libraries, offices, hospitals, health centres and university campuses. In total, over 150 public sector sites across Inverness, Fort William, Thurso and Wick will be connected to a newly built full fibre network, constructed by CityFibre.
This innovative project has been made possible by a pioneering collaboration between the Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage, NHS Highland, the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).
Working in partnership with the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Network Fund, these five Scottish public sector organisations have awarded a £9.5m contract to Capita for the delivery of gigabit-capable services to 152 sites by March 2021. In addition, CityFibre has committed a multi-million-pound private investment to construct the fibre network connecting the sites, which it will design, operate and own.
Improved connectivity will transform the provision and access of public services, while also accelerating investment in the region by future-proofing its digital capabilities. Full fibre provides the crucial infrastructure required to develop new digital services and smart city applications such as smart traffic controls, HD CCTV and even remote health and care tools.
Creating a fully connected Scotland has been a fundamental driver behind the SWAN project since we started it in 2014.
Highland school children will also benefit. Full fibre connectivity will enhance digital learning by improving the performance of devices such as tablets and computers, while future-proofing their connectivity for further innovations in digital learning. This will be vital as digital skills continue to underpin the jobs and workplaces of tomorrow.
Speaking of the announcement, Drew Hendry MP (SNP, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey), said: “The Gigabit City steering group has been working to realise this cutting-edge high-speed fibre connectivity over the past year and today’s announcement will ensure we make significant progress towards that objective. As well as transforming internet connectivity in our public buildings, I would like to see our business community also benefit from this infrastructure in the future. The potential for Inverness and the wider Highlands really is enormous through improved productivity, inward investment and innovation. Instead of following, we will be at the forefront of the digital opportunities and that is certainly cause for celebration.”
Eddie Cronie, Managing Director of SWAN at Capita, added: “We are delighted to be working with all the regional partners to bring local access full fibre to Highland locations in SWAN, benefitting nurses, schoolchildren, and lecturers, among many, many others.
“Creating a fully connected Scotland has been a fundamental driver behind the SWAN project since we started it in 2014. By bringing full fibre to these 152 sites in some of the most rural areas of the country, we are getting closer to achieving that goal, as well as boosting the Highlands’ economy through significant investment.”
James McClafferty, Head of Regional Development at CityFibre, said: “This announcement marks yet another major CityFibre investment in Scotland's digital infrastructure. With existing full fibre projects in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling, connecting schools, libraries, council offices and community hubs, our fibre infrastructure is already transforming the delivery of public services – fit for the future.
“Better connectivity not only drives efficiency and improves the digital experience of staff and community members, it will also help position these areas for economic growth, investment and innovation.”
Leader of The Highland Council Councillor Margaret Davidson commented: “This is the first step in what will make the Highlands one of the best connected regions in the UK. This will ultimately draw millions of pounds of investment to local communities and benefit both businesses and the wider population.”
The Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN) is one of the most significant single public sector ICT initiatives ever undertaken in Scotland. The programme was set up to establish a single shared network and common ICT infrastructure across Scotland’s entire public sector.