Scottish Government should create a national ‘digital leader for Scotland’ post, according to new report
A report published jointly by SCDI, ScotlandIS, The Royal Society of Edinburgh and BT Scotland calls for a top government role to be created with responsibility for digital transformation
Scottish Parliament - Image credit: Holyrood
Scotland needs a national government digital chief officer reporting in to the Scottish Government, according to a report published this week.
The report, ‘Smart Citizens, Smart City Regions: Delivering Digital Public Services in Scotland’ calls for a new ‘digital leader for Scotland’ role to be created.
The person would fulfil a similar function to the recently created local authority chief digital officer, but at a central government level.
He or she would report in to the Scottish Government to ensure that digital transformation gets the support and oversight it needs at a national level, providing oversight of future trends, advise how evolving technological developments can be integrated into public services and producing a vision for digital Scotland.
“We…believe that this role should report to the Cabinet in recognition of the authority required to fulfil this responsibility and of the need to transform and digitalise the whole spectrum of government services and organisations,” it adds.
The report has been published by a partnership of SCDI, ScotlandIS, The Royal Society of Edinburgh and BT Scotland and the recommendations were developed by a steering group following discussions at the ‘Smart Citizens, Smart City Regions’ digital forum held in Glasgow in autumn 2016.
Commenting on the recommendations, Mark Dames, Head of Policy & Public Affairs for BT Scotland and a member of SCDI's 'Smart Citizens, Smart City Regions' steering group, commented: "In order for Scotland's citizens to reap the rewards of a digital nation, leadership from local and central government and the wider public sector is required to set Scotland on a course to achieving the vision outlined in this report.
“The foundations are strong, and the integration of digital technologies in the reform of public services offers huge opportunities to introduce new ways of accessing, targeting and delivering public services using new technology.
"Yet, 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."
Leadership is one of four key areas recommendations in the report, with other recommendations outlined under pace of change, digital skills in the public sector workforce and education.
It also suggests the Scottish Government should work with local government to devise a set of metrics for digital benchmarking, with an annual ministerial announcement of progress, and provide top-level leadership on a trusted ‘data bank’ mechanism that covers collection, storage and sharing of citizens’ personal data.
Other recommendations include identifying quick win public sector functions that could be digitalised most easily or have the greatest impact, establishing a public sector digital workforce development programme and public sector digital MBA.
It also calls for top-level leadership on embedding digital skills in the school curriculum and computer science as a core subject.
The report notes that there is some strengths in the Scottish Government response so far, but it adds: “The pace of change has, however, been slow.
“The Scottish Government’s current focus on revisiting the Digital Strategy for Scotland is welcome, but progress between strategies published in 2011 and 2013 and today is not fully evident”
The report also notes that the “scale of the task is large” and that while for many things Scotland’s small size can be considered an advantage, that “may not be wholly applicable” in this case because the platforms and customer journeys require “intensive investment” regardless of the number of transactions.
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