*This is the second piece in a series of Guest Blogs by James Cummings*

Renewed data commitments, new plans, and improvements on old digital initiatives will put more focus on collaborating across wider public sectors, according to the plans for the updated Digital Action Plan from the Scottish Government. The update will include the latest aims for digital services and modern data use. It will also address the potential for wider public sector collaborations.

Digital Growth

The use of smartphones and mobile access to the internet has grown faster in Scotland than any other UK nation. Users also reported greater use of online activities than the UK average for visiting websites (50% compared to 39%), accessing email (45% compared to 37%), and social networking (44% compared to 37%). Since the baseline year of 2007, the percentage of adults using the internet for personal use has increased from 62.7% to 81.9%

In addition to laying the direction for the provision of decentralised services in Scotland, a spokesperson for the government has assured representatives across the public and private sectors about the excess of opportunities for collaboration with each other and the Scottish Government.

One of these opportunities is said to include a chance to work alongside a chief digital officer. This is a position that is being fashioned and set up to lead transformation planning schemes for a majority of local councils in Scotland, as well as third sector and NHS authorities.

The Scottish Government has said it will be working in close partnership with the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) on devising its latest digital strategy. The unveiling of this renewed strategy is also off the heels of a publication made earlier this year of findings by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI). This addressed transforming digital public service delivery.

The report, which called for a number of changes regarding the government’s data sharing and project leadership, not only championed the need to accelerate the pace of change to ensure that Scotland reaps the opportunities offered by new technologies, but also reinforced the high level support and oversight needed to make it successful.

Scotland’s Digital Potential

Director of Policy & Place at SCDI, Claire Mack, commented on the country’s potential to become a world leader in digital transformation. “The investments that have been made in digital infrastructure over recent years,” she said, “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.”

The findings by the independent body backed the appointment of a “high profile” digital leader to oversee national digital transformation and data initiatives. Their responsibilities would also be to devise suitable metrics, in conjunction with the local authorities, to benchmark performance against broader digital aims.

The SCDI also recommended the acquisition of a ‘data bank’. This is a mechanism to oversee data collection and storage.

Digital Transformation at the Heart of Public Sector Reforms

In terms of present leadership, the government said that it sees digital transformation as being at the heart of public sector reforms. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution was leading on digital public service plans, with its Cabinet Security for the Rural Economy and Connectivity heading up connectivity focuses.

“Our Programme for Government, published in September 2016, outlined our commitment to refresh Scotland’s Digital Strategy,” said a spokesperson for the government.

“The refreshed strategy will be published shortly and will set out our plans for ensuring that the Scottish Government continues to access the best possible advice from industry, academia and the people of Scotland on the development of its digital agenda. Industry has been, and will continue to be, fully engaged in our transformation process.”

As Phil Smith, Digital Manager at Daily Posts Scotland, puts it, “Scotland can come to the party just as much as London, India, Israel and other digital centres. Geographical boundaries begin to melt away as soon as we begin to exchange data at speed. The digital space is a bridge and a hub that anybody anywhere can use as long as they have the knowledge, skills, and the right attitudes required to thrive in a new digital landscape.”

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