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Scottish councils urged to make more of RPA and AI


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Scottish local authorities are being encouraged to step up their work on robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI), with plans for a procurement framework to support the drive.

The plan is one of the key features of new business plan for Digital Office of Scottish Local Government, published as it begins its Digital Office 2.0 programme.

This comes as the organisation has reached the end of its original three-year term and, with all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities providing their backing in principle, and has laid out its ambitions for the next two years.

It has established six work portfolios for digital initiatives, taking in health and care, learning and teaching, leadership and skills, digital foundations, digital place and digital council.

The latter includes encouraging local government to develop the use of RPA and AI, working with procurement organisation Scotland Excel on a common approach to purchasing and implementation, and developing a pipeline of common business challenges.

One of the intended outcomes is to produce a framework agreement for councils to procure robotics solutions.

Rates, identity and collaboration

Other plans under the digital council workstream include identifying options for digital services for non-domestic rates collection, providing input into the Scottish Government’s Digital Identity programme, and developing standards for collaboration between councils.

Among the aims is to produce a toolkit with common service design and technical principles and standards, and a wider adoption of Microsoft Office 365 across the sector.

In the digital health and care sector there are plans to provide guidance on moving from analogue to digital telecare – with the aim of deploying at least 1,000 digital telecare boxes by 2021 – working with other organisations on a digital health and care platform, and developing a pipeline of innovation challenges.

There is also an emphasis on linking up council and health boards by June 2021 through the increased use of Office 365.

Work in the digital place stream includes the development of a Scotland-wide digital planning strategy, and on the better use of data, including guidance on publishing open data.

Design and cyber

Among the digital foundations outlines are plans for a Digital Design Board, to be developed with Socitm Scotland by the end this year, a cyber framework to be rolled out to all councils by October 2021, the creation of a library of reusable data analytics, and the publication of a paper on future operating models in IT and digital.

The Digital Office has outlined its focus as being to provide sector-wide digital leadership, develop transformation capabilities, deliver sector-wide programmes, build stronger relationships with other sectors, and develop standards for local government digital services.

It has developed a new operating model to manage the work programmes, which relies on a phased delivery model that sets clearer expectations of projects, should make it easier to plan resources, and provide clearer metrics to measure the progress and impact of programmes.

The business plan also says that the Digital Office will support the development of new communities for different elements of digital transformation. It has identified several including network engineering, hosting and cloud engineering, internet of things and cyber security.

In the next few weeks the organisation plans to distribute Heartbeat Marketing packs to recruit councils to new and existing projects.

Image by Gwydion M Williams, CC BY 2.0

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