A digital leadership role would provide a driving force and would report to the Scottish Cabinet to ensure that digital transformation gets the high level support and oversight needed to make it successful. Placing digital at the heart of Public Service such a leader would ensure Scotland’s digital transformation, driving public and private data sharing, which will underpin the development of new and more targeted public services. Such a leader would create a compelling vision for Digital Scotland and ensure that progress is tracked transforming Scotland’s public services contribute to economic growth through enhanced productivity of public services.
Public service productivity lags that of the private sector and digital transformation could offer a solution to help see Scotland increase productivity as a critical driver of long-term economic growth and higher living standards in Scotland.
Claire Mack, Director of Policy & Place at SCDI, commented: “Scotland has the opportunity to become a world leader in digital transformation. The investments that have been made in digital infrastructure over recent years need to be fully utilised to help support our economic growth as a nation.
“Business is innovating constantly to respond to digital and technological disruption and users of services are coming to expect the convenience, personalisation and efficiency they get through their digital subscriptions, social media and app based services to apply to all areas of their lives.
“We know the economic challenges that face us are significant and using digital technologies to create a nation of smart citizens and smart city regions in Scotland will help to prepare us for these challenges.”
Mark Dames, Head of Policy & Public Affairs for BT Scotland and member of SCDI’s ‘Smart Citizens, Smart City Regions’ Steering Group, commented: “In order for Scotland’s citizens to reap the rewards of a digital nation, leadership from local and central government and the wider public sector is required to set Scotland on a course to achieving the vision outlined in this report. The foundations are strong, and the integration of digital technologies in the reform of public services offers huge opportunities to introduce new ways of accessing, targeting and delivering public services using new technology.
“Yet, without reform placing a priority on digital, there is a risk that the changes implemented now will not be sufficiently future-proofed for the economy and society we face in the future.
“Simply saving money in delivering the services we currently offer, in the way we currently offer them, will not be enough to meet the inequality challenges in education and health, never mind meet the social and financial challenges of imminent and significant demographic change.
“Building a new model of public service reform, fully embedding digital technologies, could see Scotland take the lead in finding innovative ways to deliver better public services and improve public sector productivity in a time of financial constraint and increasing demand from an ageing society.”
The report makes a number of recommendations on how to support Scotland and its citizens on the digital journey. It has been estimated that digital transformation in Scotland could see savings of £130million to £200million based on savings calculated for transformation at a UK level. Online transaction costs can be up to fifty times cheaper than face to face transactions.
The report acknowledges that change due to technology will be a constant process but warns of the need to get up to speed now to maintain a steady position in the future. Infrastructure rollout has presented some enormous challenges for Scotland but these are steadily being overcome. There will be a need to apply new thinking around how citizens use services and how data led service design will change the way in which Scotland’s public sector delivers in order to offer more targeted and efficient services in the future. Report recommendations focus on the key areas: Leadership, the Pace of Change, Digital Skills within the Public Sector and Education.
Pace of Change
Digital Skills within the Public Sector
Polly Purvis, (right) head of Scotland IS, suitably has the last word, that despite a stated political commitment in Scotland to deliver a new generation of digital public services, this is proving difficult to deliver quickly and at scale, and Scotland risks being uncompetitive with respect to other nations.
That commitment, she urges, needs to be driven through to the delivery organisations and effective adoption will result in improved services and significant efficiencies, enabling citizens to interact with government, as they do with the private sector, at a time and place of their choosing. As this new generation of services is developed, making use of the large number of small and medium sized (SME) digital companies in Scotland, with innovative ideas can be of real benefit to the public sector. If suitably encouraged and supported they can deliver fresh ideas quickly and at competitive prices.
The CTPA (CivTech Pilot Accelerator) has been an encouraging, step highlighting new ways to harness the innovation that start-ups and SMEs can bring. We now need collectively to build on the existing engagement between the public sector and the SME community and increase that cooperation significantly.