ScotlandIS, the trade body for Scotland’s ICT industry, has predicted that a focus on digital economy could generate 70,000 jobs in the Scottish technology sector within the next five years.
The Scottish technology sector has grown almost 50% in the last five years and currently adds £5bn to the economy, with the trade body calling for all political parties to continue this growth and focus on developing the sector.
Launching its manifesto ahead of the Scottish Parliament election, the trade body said that if the government and tech industry work together to create a climate for growth, then the digital technologies sector can double in next five years.
ScotlandIS chief executive Polly Purvis said: "We are at the beginning of the next information revolution. Scotland has the opportunity to convert our undeniable potential into a reality by creating an effective digital economy, which could translate into an extra 70,000 jobs in five years.
"The ScotlandIS manifesto offers practical proposals for Scotland to embrace digital technologies wholeheartedly, to educate our workforce, business and public sector leaders, wider society and, most importantly, our young people in the benefits digital technologies can deliver.
"We believe that industry, working with government and policy makers, can make a step change to deliver economic and societal value."
ScotlandIS has urged the government to focus on next generation connectivity, especially in rural areas, with every individual having access to a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbit/s and 4G mobile coverage, increasing to a minimum of 500Mbit/s ultrafast broadband and 5G mobile by 2025.
The body has urged the political parties to make sure that free Wi-Fi access becomes the norm in towns and cities, starting with the opening up of Wi-Fi infrastructure funded by the public sector.
Furthermore, the next government should focus on providing greater digital inclusion, with programmes to ensure that everyone becomes digitally aware, helping the one in seven Scottish citizens excluded currently.
ScotlandIS also added that the next government should also ensure digital literacy of all staff members at all levels.
It also suggested the creation of tech clusters, including new ones in Aberdeen and Inverness and the setting of higher growth targets in Edinburgh and Glasgow, so that they perform like other successful cities such as Stockholm and Berlin.
Purvis added: "In particular, we must leverage the current global opportunities in data science and cybersecurity as well as working to increase exports.
"Our research suggests that there is significant appetite among Scottish businesses to expand international sales and this should be encouraged, increasing the number of companies who understand how to export successfully."
In order to meet the objectives, the tech body suggested that the coming government must address the skills shortage.
It has suggested that the next Scottish government should focus on upskilling teachers, ensuring education provision meets industry needs and, upskilling and reskilling the current workforce.
ScotlandIS also added that the government should also address the gender balance in technology sector by attracting more women.
Finally, the body urged the encouragement of crowdfunding and the provision of cornerstone funding in new venture capital funds through the Scottish Investment Bank.