Scotland’s councils appoint chief digital and technology officers

Written by Jenni Davidson on 15 September 2016 in News

The shared digital and technology chiefs will lead digital innovation in Scottish local government

Martyn Wallace, Lorraine McMillan and Colin Birchenall - Image credit: Improvement Service

Twenty-seven Scottish local authorities have joined forces to appoint a chief digital officer and chief technology officer to drive digital transformation.

Capita’s Martyn Wallace has been appointed chief digital officer, while Serco’s Colin Birchenall has been appointed chief technology officer.

The two will lead the newly created local government digital office, which will set the long-term digital direction for local government in Scotland.


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Wallace comes to local government from Capita’s Secure Digital Solutions Sector where he supported clients to make their businesses more digital-centric.

Most recently he helped the business division create a vision called the ‘Internet of Police’ which takes a digital-first approach to 21st century policing.

Previously he was at Telefonica O2, where he was the company’s representative on the Mobile Operators Association in relation to Scottish interests.

He has close working relationships across the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and played a lead role in the development of the Scottish Government’s strategies for both the Change in Public Sector ICT and Vision for Digital Inclusion.

Wallace said he was “honoured and excited” by the new post and believes more can be done by being digitally disruptive in Scottish local authorities.

He added: “My team and I believe that digital is an enabler for better health, better education, better assisted living, better communication, better interactions, creates potential for predicative service interventions, engaged communities and is a catalyst for new economic opportunities whilst also helping drive more efficient and user friendly services to our citizens.

“There is a whole world of untapped data in our local authorities that can be unlocked and used to start small, think big and move fast in driving a significant culture shift in how we can facilitate and deliver services whilst driving better outcomes for end users.”

Birchenall joins the local government digital office from Serco, where he led on the IT strategy for Glasgow City Council within the ICT and property joint venture, ACCESS.

He was also the chief technology architect for the £24m Innovate UK Future Cities Demonstrator programme that explored new ways of using technology in the city and which has been beginning to shape Glasgow's digital transformation.

He said there is a need to create an environment of “open innovation” to deliver better outcomes and new economic opportunities.

“We are entering a new era of the information age. Digital is no longer just about online services,” Birchenall said.

“Digital technology is available to us wherever we are, at any time and is becoming increasingly intelligent and embedded within everyday objects such as smart watches, smart thermostats, smart light bulbs.

 “This provides local government with an unprecedented opportunity to re-image and redesign how services are provided.

“Around the world, and here in Scotland, we are already seeing more and more examples of the increasing role that digital can play to improve attainment, help people to live more independently, increase physical activity, empower communities, create new economic opportunities, and help local government to deliver better, more accessible and more efficient services.

 "We cannot keep up with the rate of change of technology alone.

“We need to create an environment for ‘open innovation’ where we all have a stake in our digital future, where we empower people to innovate collaboratively to deliver better outcomes for our residents and provide new economic opportunities for businesses.”

 Lorraine McMillian, chief executive of East Renfrewshire Council, who chairs the Scottish Local Government Digital Transformation Board, said there is a huge amount of work already being carried out by Scottish councils to use digital technologies, but there is a need for continued innovation to be at the cutting edge of technologies which make it easier to serve communities.

“We are looking forward to having this new digital office which will help Scottish councils be ahead of the game, to be as agile and effective as possible in this ever changing digital world and we hope ultimately that we will ensure that we continue to meet the needs of our increasingly technologically and digitally savvy citizens,” she said.

“Martyn and Colin both bring with them extensive and invaluable experience which I have no doubt will enable us to further drive forward our ambitious digital vision for local government.”

The plan for a new local government digital office emerged from the digital transformation strategy for local government earlier this year.

Twenty-seven councils joined forces to drive a digital transformation in local services by establishing a partnership to improve how services work and councils serve residents.

The group of 27 councils will fund the digital office for the next three years and the new leadership team will be shared by all the participating councils.

The new chiefs will have the task of turning the digital transformation strategy into a set of actions that will set the long-term digital direction for local government in Scotland.

They will work with all councils to help build a portfolio of collaborative initiatives and projects that use digital technologies to reduce the cost of services and improve the customer experience.

As well as working with the participating councils, the office will collaborate with public sector partners including the Scottish Government, Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM), SEEMiS Group, NHS National Shared Services and the Improvement Service (IS) to exchange best practice and develop wider public sector strategic direction and new shared services.

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