For all those able to make it to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), November 23rd marked the return of DIGIT Expo, Scotland’s largest IT and digital showcase.
DIGIT’s editorial team, Graham, David, and Michael were all on-hand to cover the event live. We attended the presentations and talked with delegates and exhibitors, finding out the day’s crucial insights.
With more than 40 speakers and 50 exhibitors taking over the EICC, the day was packed to bursting – far too much to cover in one article. So, in our roundup, we touch on some of the highlights of the day, and what made the biggest impressions on us.
Graham: “The day started off with the Opening Ministerial Address from Kate Forbes where she discussed some of the Scottish tech industries achievements, and its future. Given that COP26 had put Scotland at the centre of the world at the start of this month, it was perhaps natural that she reinforced the importance of green technology. Forbes noted how digital technology holds great potential to help Scotland and the world to meet many of the environmental challenges facing the planet.”
Michael: “What struck me most was her comments on how Scotland is facing a skills gaps. We’ve known for some time, even before the Logan Report came out highlighting the issue, that Scotland needs to train more IT professionals, even just to meet demand, let alone grow.
David: “Exactly. Forbes noted specifically that the country needs 13,000 digital workers a year to meet the demands of growth. And given that we are still in a pandemic, the path to recovery was a major point of discussion. Forbes’ speech highlighted the importance of collaboration between government and business to deliver inclusivity and innovation and to advent the proliferation of a digital Scotland.”
Graham: “That dovetails fairly intuitively to Holly Cummins’ presentation. She touched on how IBM, as a major private sector company, has been driving innovation, and looked at some of the barriers to innovating.
“She boiled it down to ideas, time and money. As such, for companies to be more innovative, she recommended creating dedicated innovation teams, and ensuring they have enough funding and dedicate the time to developing new ideas.
“‘Metrics shouldn’t drive behaviour; they have to be accommodated to allow ‘fun, free-thinking,’ she told us.”
Michael: “To go back to the skills gap, that was a theme on our two diversity panels. We heard from auticon’s Emma Walker and Maria Hamilton about the advantages hiring autistic workers offers to tech companies. Despite the many skills and abilities autistic people have that can benefit IT organisations, the unemployment rate for neurodivergent people is shockingly low. Failing to account for neurodiversity is stopping many companies from accessing a broad talent pool.”
Graham: “We had similar conversations on the Improving Diversity & Inclusion in Scotland’s Tech Sector panel. Just as there are barriers stopping neurodivergent people getting into the workforce, there are systemic barriers for other groups as well.
“With the need to fill the skills gap, it seems the ultimate lesson is that organisations can’t keep looking in the same places for the same people. We need new processes to bring in new people.”
David: “I noted that many talks focused on cybersecurity. Given the current state of the cybersecurity landscape, with the sheer volume of ransomware attacks increasing over the pandemic by an alarming number, this is understandable.
“I sat in on Jordan Schroeder’s presentation, where he discussed whether we need to move past using passwords. Computer security architecture has been using passwords since 1961, and it only took a year for the first password to be stolen. Despite what could be the first cyberbreach happening in 1966, all down to a password failure, the technology hasn’t changed much in 60 years.
“As such, Schroeder noted that a shift towards zero trust is preferable to deal with modern cybersecurity challenges, leaving behind the convenience and insecurity of passwords. This requires a major shift in thinking away from ‘can you’ access files to ‘should you’.”
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Michael: “It was hard to choose one cybersecurity talk that stood out. Quorum Cyber’s Mark Cunningham-Dickie led us through a fascinating walkthrough of a cybersecurity breach in the Incident Response presentation, while Andy Fernandez at Zerto looked at how to data protection and backup in the event of a breach.
Graham: “I was impressed by Securework’s Don Smith, who provided a lot of insights into how the threat landscape has changed in the past decade. He explored how ransomware has evolved, from small-scale attacks netting hundreds of dollars at a time from individuals to major attacks making millions and shutting down companies and even the petrol supply to half a country.
“Perhaps his most pertinent warning though was that for cybercriminals, the barrier to scale is a lack of hackers, not a lack of victims. He even showed us a slide featuring a job advert for an affiliate for one of the major ransomware groups, showing us how competitive recruitment is for new hackers.”