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Scotland to get digital public services fund



Budget for 2016-17 doubles national spending on developing digital infrastructure and points to support of government projects

The Scottish Government is to set up an 'Alpha Fund' to support digital public services, as part of its plan to boost the country’s digital infrastructure in the next financial year.

The plan has emerged in the budget document for 2016-17, published yesterday by Deputy First Secretary John Swinney (pictured). It includes a provision to more than double spending on digital infrastructure to £116 million. Most of the increase will be in capital expenditure, which rises to £92.2 million.

While a large portion of the funds will be directed at developing broadband provision and the digital economy, the document includes mention of a plan to set up the Alpha Development Fund “to achieve service improvements and efficiency benefits of digital public services”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told UKAuthority it will be managed by the Digital Directorate and detailed plans will be set out in the new year.

At forefront

"The Alpha Development Fund is part of the Scottish Government's comprehensive approach to ensuring our public services are at the forefront of digital advances," the spokesperson said.

"We are developing a national digital ecosystem in which common service capabilities are identified, developed and shared across the public sector. This will provide opportunities to develop common processes, supported by common technologies, around the way in which we issue grants or undertake licensing for example.

"The fund will enable the Scottish Government to map such processes and develop alphas that demonstrate the value a common approach can add to both citizens and delivery organisations. In doing so it will provide the basis for cost-effective investments in developing digital public services across the Scottish Government beyond."

Other initiatives in the pipeline include the creation of a Central Government Digital Transformation Service to provide agencies with access to digital skills, and further developing as the central point of access to information and services.

Emphasis on sharing

In contrast to the recent UK Budget, the Scottish document does not provide many details on how much money will be allocated for digital projects in specific parts of the government, instead emphasising an intent to develop services that can be shared across the public sector. It highlights support for a handful of measures related to specific services:

  • Supporting the Digital Transformation Service in changing public services from a user perspective.
  • Increasing the use of digital technology in the justice system, reducing the need for people to physically appear in court.
  • Supporting National Records of Scotland’s (NRS) development of a new Digital Preservation Service, its role in creating a Data Linkage Framework for public research projects and its work on a ScotlandsPeople website.
  • Backing NRS’s preparations of the next census, which will be carried out mainly through digital channels.

NRS is to receive £28.4 million in 2016-17, up from £23.2 million this year.

Growth and reform

In his budget speech, Swinney said: “This budget is driven by two themes: supporting inclusive growth and protecting and reforming public services. We will deliver inclusive growth by focusing on investment in innovation, infrastructure, education and skills, and by maintaining a competitive business environment.

“And we will protect and reform public services by delivering on the Christie Commission approach of service integration at local level, prevention and improving outcomes for individuals.”

Image from Scottish Parliament under Open Scottish Parliament Licence




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