Tech 100: ‘Digital is becoming an economy in itself’

Written by Simon Haston, Aberdeen City Council on 23 May 2017 in Comment

Simon Haston, head of IT and transformation for Aberdeen City Council, on shift from opportunity to delivery

Simon Haston - Image credit: Aberdeen City Council

These are exciting times for anyone involved in digital as technology such as internet of things, artificial intelligence, data analytics converge. 

The conversations around digital are now in the boardroom and on the streets. It may even be that the term ‘digital’ is becoming obsolete as it is mainstreamed into usual business activities.

It is also becoming apparent that institutional digital programmes now need to merge with place-based initiatives. 


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For example, internet of things may help our citizens but will also impact on how we deliver our services.

Up-skilling our communities and providing them with access, such as free wifi, provides them with greater opportunities, but also means that they can interact with councils digitally.

Like many cities we are using investment in our networks to attract private sector investment in homes and businesses.

The smart cities agenda is now evolving into a smart region agenda. Certainly in Aberdeen our digital place programme is now a theme itself in the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan. 

The city regional deal has made us think beyond local government borders and across all regional sectors. So digital is not just about service delivery but social and economic benefits. 

Digital is becoming an economy in itself, so for the Aberdeen region with the oil and gas downturn this important.

There has been a fundamental shift from evangelising about the digital opportunities to now delivering on raised expectations – technology is one part of this.

]The key is how we leverage regional leadership, co-ordinate activities, pool funding and ensure that we harness as much capability as possible, wherever that may come from.

Next year will be about delivering on the promises.

This poses interesting questions for anyone involved in technology.

What new roles are required and where do they sit within or between organisations?

Who helps us to deliver and how do we build sustainable finance models? 

What is the interplay between organisations, sectors, local, regional and national?

How do we balance business as usual with innovation and strategy?

Simon Haston is the head of IT and transformation for Aberdeen City Council. He leads the council’s digital transformation programme, chairs a city-wide digital place board and a regional board

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