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Report calls for digital leader for Scotland

07/02/17

Recommendations also include creation of audit metrics, a data bank mechanism and digital workforce development programme

The Scottish Government should appoint a digital leader to drive through the transformation of public services using new technologies, according to a newly published report on public service transformation in the country.

Smart Citizens – Smart City Regions – Delivering Digital Public Services in Scotland calls for the creation of the high level role that would report direct to the Scottish Cabinet and be responsible for accelerating the pace of digital change.

Smart Citizens report cover imageThe digital leader would take the lead in efforts to push forward the Digital Scotland vision – which covers public services, connectivity, the digital economy and digital participation – along with the sharing of public and private data.

The report was produced in partnership by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), ScotlandIS, The Royal Society of Edinburgh and BT Scotland.

Future proof

Claire Mack, director of policy and place at SCDI, said: "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."

She added that using digital technologies to create a nation of “smart citizens and smart city regions” in Scotland would help prepare it for future economic challenges.

It has been estimated that Scotland could see savings of up to £200 million in its public sector by moving to the wider use of online services.

The report acknowledges that infrastructure roll out has presented challenges but says these are steadily being overcome. There is a further challenge, however, in a need to rethink how people use services, and how a data led service design would change the way the public sector delivers to offer more targeted and efficient services in the future.

Need for benchmarking

Other recommendations include the Scottish Government working with local authorities to devise a set of metrics for annual benchmarking of performance against the Digital Scotland vision, and an audit of public sector services to prioritise those that can be more easily digitalised or would have the most impact.

In addition, the public sector should build a trusted 'data bank' mechanism that covers data collection, sharing and storage of personal data of citizens will require top-level leadership. This would help to foster trust in public services.

‘Citizen champions’ – people who regularly use public services and with whom others could identify – could provide support in helping to change people’s behaviour to make more use of digital channels.

The report also proposes the creation of a digital workforce development programme for public authorities and a Public Sector Digital MBA to build up a pool of talent.

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