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Auditor says Scotland needs stronger leadership in digital government


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Scottish Government needs to get a firmer grip on efforts to digitise public services, the country’s central auditor has warned.

Audit Scotland has published a report, Enabling Digital Government, that says despite some good early progress there is a need for greater strategic leadership across the public sector.

Among the prime shortcomings is that the Scottish Government does not yet know how much investment is needed to achieve the aims set out in its digital strategy in 2017, and lacks a complete picture of which actions have so far had the most impact and where there are gaps. This makes it difficult to prioritise the work to be done.

It also does not know how much money is being invested across the public sector on digitisation plans, and the Digital Directorate lacks sufficient staff to share the common lessons learned.

Collaboration and skills

The report sets out a series of recommendations including that the Scottish Government needs to create a more collaborative approach to developing digital government, develops the necessary skills with flexibility built into recruitment, assures itself there is sufficient investment, and sets up a strategic forum for shared planning and prioritisation.

It also identifies a need to map out all significant public sector digital programmes, and ensure all major project reviews and assessments are reviewed by an equivalent to the chief information officer to ensure quality and consistency. In addition, the Scottish Government should keep its Digital First Service Standard under review to ensure it remains relevant.

Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner said: "The Scottish Government is in a unique position to show digital leadership by bringing people together and sharing lessons learned across Scotland's public sector.

"Governments across the world are facing the same challenge, and bringing about collaboration will not be easy. But Scotland's relatively small size presents a clear opportunity for the government to move from an operational role to one of strategic leadership and reap all the benefits that shift could bring to citizens and the wider economy."

Government response

The Scottish Government’s Digital Economy Minister Kate Forbes responded with a statement claiming good progress but acknowledging that more needs to be done.

“I am pleased that Audit Scotland acknowledges the early progress made by the Scottish Government in this respect and the success of programmes of digital transformation that have been delivered in the last 24 months,” she said. “But we realise that there is more work to be done.

“Our Digital Strategy for Scotland is ambitious and it sets out actions for Scotland to become a leading digital country.

“This ambition is matched by collective, coordinated actions that have already delivered good progress.

“We do, however, recognise that we will only achieve more through continued collaborative working across the public, private and third sectors. We will consider Audit Scotland’s recommendations.” 

Image by flickrtickr2009 from Wikimedia, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

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