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Openreach back SHIREs connectivity award to showcse Highland innovation

By Calum MacLeod

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EVENTS of the last 18 months have reinforced just how important digital connectivity is to businesses across rural Scotland.

Already key to helping connect with customers and overcome the challenges of working in more remote locations, connectivity provided the flexibility respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and reach out to existing and new customers.

These are the types of organisation the Scottish Highlands and Islands Rural Economy (SHIREs) Awards, presented by leading law firm Harper Macleod in association with Highland News and Media, will recognise with the rural digitalisation award for digital business or project of the year.

The winner, to be announced at the online awards ceremony on Thursday, November 18, will be a business or project which is ahead of the game when it comes to digital innovation.

They will either be using the latest technology to access markets, or are themselves delivering a digital product which makes a virtue of connectivity to open up whole new markets which in the past could not have been accessed from a rural location.

Supporting the award is Openreach, which has already invested £146 million in bringing superfast broadband to 190,000 homes and businesses in the region and is set to go even further with the roll out of the Scottish Government Reaching
100 % ( R100) programme.

Openreach’s partnership director for Scotland, Robert Thorburn, said: “We’re excited to be working with Highland News and Media again to celebrate the region’s digital innovators.

“In a year like no other, connectivity has been more important than ever. Businesses and organisations had to rapidly adapt to undreamt-of challenges and have shown remarkable resilience.

“At Openreach, we’ve been working flat out to keep everyone connected and continue building gigabit-capable broadband. More than 30 towns and villages across the Highlands are included in our full fibre upgrade plans, which will bring a welcome boost.

“We’ve been carrying out surveys on land, sea and in the air as we plan more subsea routes to islands. And we’re about to start work on the ground for the R100 programme in the North of Scotland.

“It’s all systems go.

“The arrival of gigabit broadband will help digital innovation in the Highlands go from strength to strength.

“We’re proud to support the rural digitisation award and can’t wait to hear about the amazing things nominees in the running for digital business or project of the year are doing with their connectivity.”

Entry is open to businesses and other groups based in the area covered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which stretches from Argyll and the Islands in the south to Shetland in the north, and from the Outer Hebrides in the west to Moray in the east.

This year’s SHIREs Awards will themselves depend on digital connectivity and will be held in a virtual format for the first time in response to the continuing Covid-19 crisis, and will follow the SHIREs Virtual Conference earlier in the day.

For full details of entry requirements for the rural digitalisation award and the other SHIREs Awards categories, please visit www.hnmedia.co.uk/the-shires-conference-awards

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