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New Platform Hopes to Boost ‘Digital Footfall’ for Scotland’s High Streets

A new online platform has launched with the aim of bringing communities together ‘virtually’ to boost local economies.

Launched by the Scottish Tech Army, the SOLE Scotland (Supporting our Local Economy) platform hopes to increase “digital footfall” for Scottish high street businesses.

The platform will provide a virtual community for businesses, services and amenities to connect together online and engage with customers.

Notably, the initiative hopes to create a digital presence for businesses which have traditionally operated offline, opening them up to new revenue streams and audiences.

Alistair Forbes, co-founder and chief executive of the Scottish Tech Army, said the SOLE Scotland platform hopes to capitalise on the collaborative spirit brought about by the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our research shows that the vast majority of consumers were highly motivated to support each other and their local economies during the pandemic, and the period of recovery following it, rather than giving their business to multinationals,” he said.

“However, despite that goodwill, people often use the established platforms for reasons such as convenience, flexibility, availability and price. This is proving very damaging for many local businesses, and in turn for local communities,” Forbes added.

Initially, SOLE Scotland will launch in Dunbar, with a trial period sponsored by East Lothian Council.

This provisional roll-out will see the platform partner with Dunbar Music Festival to promote venues, special offers and local businesses throughout the town during the three-day event.

Long-term, Scottish Tech Army hopes to roll the platform out to other parts of East Lothian, then to other local communities across Scotland.

Councillor John McMillan, Provost and spokesperson for Economic Development for East Lothian Council, said the pilot is a “hugely exciting” project for East Lothian which reflects the county’ s focus on support and sustaining local businesses.

“Our ‘Stay Safe, Support Local, Love East Lothian’ campaign is all about shining a light on the many wonderful businesses, services and attractions we have here – and indeed highlighting how they have adapted to the current crisis, with many offering brand new, online shopping opportunities and delivery services,” he said.

“The Dunbar community has rallied around their town centre during this trying time and businesses have already done a lot of great work around supporting each other and having a greater online presence so it’s a great fit for them to be the pilot area,” McMillan said.

The Scottish Tech Army brings tech-savvy volunteers together with organisations that are facing digitisation challenges of some kind.

Originally, the organisation was founded to help firms and people deal with the impact of Covid-19 on the economy and society. Since its launch in April 2020, the community of more than 1,700 volunteers has worked on more than 250 tech-focused projects across Scotland.

Source: DIGIT

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