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Digital Economy Business Survey 2021

Summary of findings from the Digital Economy Business Survey (DEBS) 2021. This publication includes the high level DEBS report, accompanying data tables and the Digital Economy Maturity Index 2021.


Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2020-2021 recognises the importance of digital infrastructure and technology in supporting economic growth, boosting productivity, driving innovation and supporting business resilience in the face of economic crisis.

Scotland’s refreshed Digital Strategy, A changing nation: how Scotland will thrive in a digital world, published in March 2021, sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for Scotland as a vibrant, inclusive, greener, open and outward-looking digital nation. Key to achieving these ambitions is supporting the development of internationally competitive, digitally mature businesses that are inclusive, ethical and user focused across all sectors of the Scottish economy and a workforce that has the digital skills required to support continued growth.

As part of Scotland’s Digital Strategy, the Scottish Government and its agency partners committed to monitoring developments in the level of digitisation amongst Scottish businesses, and to measure changes in digital maturity.

The first Digital Economy Business Survey was conducted in 2014 with the purpose of providing a baseline understanding on the level of digitisation of Scotland’s businesses, allowing for benchmarking and progress to be measured over time. In order to assess digital progress amongst Scottish businesses since the baseline survey in 2014, the Scottish Government, together with its partners Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland, commissioned Ipsos MORI to carry out the follow-up 2017 and 2021 Digital Economy Business Surveys.

The purpose of the 2021 Digital Economy Business Survey was to:

  • Track how Scottish businesses have evolved in relation to digital adoption, usage, exploitation and skills, since the baseline survey in 2014 and follow-up survey in 2017;
  • Provide an insight into the areas businesses may require extra support to improve their adoption and exploitation of digital technology; and
  • Provide an insight into new areas of focus, such as digital skills, productivity, cyber resilience and E-Commerce.

This report presents the high-level results from the survey. Comprehensive results from the survey, including breakdowns by firm size, sector, and area are available in the accompanying data tables which can be found as a supporting file alongside this publication.

Additional breakdowns are provided for the first time in the 2021 data tables including: number of establishments, location, organisation type, internet connection, use of digital technologies, number of technologies, investment in digital technologies, exporting markets, E-Commerce, cyber security, digital skills, annual turnover, private sector growth plans and length of time business has been operating.

Using data from the Digital Economy Business Survey, the Scottish Government has developed a Digital Economy Maturity Index (DEMI), which allows for the segmentation of businesses in Scotland according to their level of digitisation. DEMI is constructed using a range of indicators from the Digital Economy Business Surveys. The original DEMI was developed in 2014 and has since been updated for 2017 and 2021 to reflect new areas of interest. The 2021 DEMI can be found as a supporting file alongside this publication.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise have published summaries of relevant regional findings, available on their websites.

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