First South of Scotland focussed Digital Economic Business Survey published

Published:  5 August 2021

The first ever report specifically focussed on the digital position of South of Scotland businesses has been published.

Commissioned by South of Scotland Enterprise alongside a range of partners including Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland, the Digital Economic Business Survey (DEBS) aims to provide an understanding of the level of digitisation of Scotland’s businesses.

Previous DEBS were undertaken in 2014 and 2017 for Scotland but this is the first time the report has included such a focus on the South of Scotland.

Over 600 businesses in the South of Scotland were interviewed as part of the DEBS, with businesses recognising the positive impact digital technologies have on creating a thriving digital and NetZero economy.

Key findings

Engagement and uptake of digital technology

  • An increased uptake in mobile technology, social media, and cloud computing, with 77% using mobile internet and technologies – a 9% increase on 2017
  • For first time, social media use (68%) overtook website use (54%)

Digital ambitions and embracing innovation

  • A total of 81 per cent of South of Scotland businesses reported that they do not have a specific digital technology plan or strategy in place but 22% planned to use e-commerce in the next two to three years
  • Businesses in the South recognised the positive impacts of digital technologies in terms of making processes more efficient, increasing skills and enhancing competitive position


  • A total of 63% of SoS businesses said digital technologies had made a positive impact on their productivity in the last 12 months, however this is lower than the national average of 71%

Remote working

  • Businesses most likely to cite remote working tools as being more important included those selling outwith the EU (95 per cent) and operating over multiple sites

Digital Connections 

  • Superfast connections in in the region was on par with other rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands (45%) but still below the Scottish average of 62%
  • Those in the business sector were more likely to have superfast broadband connection in South of Scotland, while those in agriculture were least likely to have a superfast connection. Those in agriculture were most likely to upgrade their connections in the near future.

COVID-19 recovery

  • A total of 71% of South of Scotland businesses said digital technology had been important to the operation of their business in responding to COVID-19
  • Businesses planning to grow, or are in markets outwith Scotland, were more likely to report digital technology had been important during COVID-19 pandemic

Challenges and what SOSE is doing

Challenges highlighted by DEBS in the South of Scotland included a need to help the region’s businesses improve their digital skills and the importance of cyber security.

Supporting businesses to adopt and benefit from digital technologies is key priority for SOSE, highlighted by the variety of activities the economic and community development agency is currently taking forward including:

  • A South of Scotland Digital Strategy and bold ambitions for the region 
  • SOSE’s role as key partner in the launch of Scotland’s first rural 5G Hub in Dumfries
  • Sponsorship of two CivTech Challenges within the South
  • Co-hosting a series of digital focussed webinars with the Scottish Government, including an Introducing 5G event in September.

What support is available?

  • We would encourage any South of Scotland business wishing to improve their digital technologies and skills to get in touch with us
  • Businesses can also contact DigitalBoost, the national digital training programme for businesses.

Other DEBS reports

  • The Scottish Government’s DEBS is available
  • Highland and Islands Enterprise’s DEBS is available 

 The DEBS reports from 2014 and 2017 both included interviews with South of Scotland businesses but this year SOSE commissioned additional reporting specific to the South.

SOSE Chief Executive Jane Morrison-Ross

“For the first time, the Digital Economic Business Survey has provided specific focus on the South of Scotland which will allow SOSE and partners to have a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges businesses face in our region.  

“We are already working on our Digital Strategy and have bold ambitions for the South of Scotland. This report confirms just how important it is to bring digital opportunities, access to digital support and innovation to the South of Scotland.

“DEBS also shows us the ambitions of South of Scotland businesses, and their adaptability during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital we harness this ambition to build a thriving digital and NetZero economy.

“I would strongly encourage any South of Scotland businesses wishing to improve their digital technologies and skills to get in touch with South of Scotland Enterprise, as well as contact DigitalBoost, the national digital training programme for businesses.”