Fortnite, the Grand Canyon and Aberdeen’s digital future

LUMSDEN- Douglas

Cllr Douglas Lumsden

Fortnite, the Grand Canyon and Aberdeen’s digital future. They may seem like three very different subject matters, but all three came together this week at an event to mark the roll-out of the build programme for the city’s most significant digital infrastructure project.

I had the pleasure of representing the Council as CityFibre celebrated progress in the work to make Aberdeen the first gigabit city in Scotland, as announced earlier this year.

The Vodafone and CityFibre Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) programme will give households and businesses access that will transform the way we live and do business. To put it in context, at present just three per cent of UK premises have access to those levels of connectivity.

Aberdeen was chosen as the first FTTP city in Scotland because of the emergent tech sector, Aberdeen City Council’s commitment to ‘smart city’ initiatives and the strength of our support as a Council for the project.

The Council’s support is underpinned by a compelling economic argument, not least the digital theme at the heart of our Regional Economic Strategy and the £27 million investment in digital infrastructure through the City Region Deal.

The potential to add up to £67m to the value of local homes through improved connectivity and the £109m our Smart City initiatives aim to add to our economy by embracing smart energy networks and intelligent transportation systems is also worth reiterating.

The £99m of business productivity that analysts believe will be unlocked through access to full fibre or the attraction to start-ups which could generate a further £50m in growth, not to mention the flexible working opportunities that it’s estimated could add £45m, cannot be ignored.

The field of healthcare too is important, where digital enhancements in the delivery of services could be worth at least £12m to the regional economy and the University of Aberdeen has been chosen to receive a portion from a £54m funding pot to address healthcare challenges using data science.

However, the tangible advantages to improving connectivity are far closer to home for many of us.

My main motivation as Co-Leader of the Council is to help create a city that will give the next generation opportunities – a place they want to live in and a place they can be proud of in the way generations before have quite rightly been.

The real long term gains are in the bigger picture and shaping the future, with digital infrastructure imperative to realising our ambitions.

That’s why our partnership with Cityfibre and Vodafone is so important. It’s about businesses and public sector organisations having the best connection possible and it’s also about homes being connected at gigabit speeds to allow the whole family to stream, communicate and work.

It is brilliant to see that the work has now started around the city – it has been discussed for some time now so it’s good to show people it is real, it is coming and it will make a difference. Tuesday’s event celebrated the build progress.

Many streets have already been completed and I’m looking forward to the build programme reaching our area. I still have copper coming to my house, probably the same copper cable that has been there for last 40 years.

That’s fine some of the time but when everyone is home it can be a disaster – in relative, teenage terms of course! The biggest complaint in my household is when my 14-year-old son is playing Fortnite and it locks up and I have to restart the router – you would think it was an international emergency.

There’s a far more serious side to that though, not only in terms of the impact poor connectivity can have on business but also in the expectations we all have as users.

The next generation certainly expect limitless connectivity – always on and totally reliable. Last year as a family we travelled to the west coast of America and spent two days at the Grand Canyon.

As anyone who has been will know, and I’m sure it’s deliberate, there is virtually no mobile signal and wifi is rare. My son’s exact words were: “I can’t believe we are at one of the wonders of the world and there is no internet. “

Maybe I should have been surprised, maybe a bit gutted – but always connected is what the next generation are used to, it’s how they communicate and how they live. In fact, it’s how we all live.

What the partnership with Cityfibre and Vodafone does is lay the foundation for the future. Everyone will have to do it and I’m so pleased that Aberdeen is not behind, we’re leading the pack and can be very proud of that. As council leader I will do everything I can to support what is happening and to continue to play our part in growing the economy of tomorrow.