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Digital transformation: The people's story

Digital transformation: The people's story

I was pleased to be asked to speak at this year’s Public Sector Digital Transformation Conference. And then was quickly struck by the myriad of directions a twenty minute ‘Lightening Talk’ could take!

So, you may have expected to hear – at lightning pace – about a range of innovative devices and services that are transforming the lives of people every day. In honesty there are amazing devices, services and other digital solutions that are genuinely transformational. But I wanted to come from a different angle.

I became the Digital Network Officer in November 2022, coming from eighteen years in the voluntary sector – community engaging, campaigning, programme managing and ‘stakeholding’.

I worked with people, communities and policy makers challenging health inequity, promoting resilience and empowering people. My experiences were routed in disability, ethnic minority and poverty communities – sometimes all of the above. I wondered how much I’d miss that, but it became clear that the community mobilisation knowledge would be very much needed.

This is an opportunity to hear about the Digital Citizen Panel – a network of people supported by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland through their Digital Health and Social Care programme – where my post sits.

The panel’s commitment to bringing the ‘voice of lived experience’ to the Scottish Government's Digital Health and Social Care Strategy, makes their contribution critical to the aspiration of achieving better health equity in Scotland, visualising a key place for digital in the making of this potentially seismic shift in population health.

The panel is well-placed to raise awareness, offer peer support and influence policy. They do a lot of this well and are getting better as a collective. They’re also well disposed – with family members/carers/friends - to choose digital products as very discerning consumers passionate about trust, form and function.

The Digital Citizen Panel came into existence online in 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic as the strategy needed people’s voice at the heart design and development. The panel provides that voice, insight and user experience necessary to progress with digital design that aspires to be ethical, inclusive and accessible.

In 2023, Scotland produced its first Data Strategy for Health and Social Care to assist “key missions across the health and social care sector, such as improving population health and reducing health inequalities”. Consultation with ALLIANCE members highlighted recommendations, including:
• Greater control over personal data - allow or withdraw, making informed choices about their own care.
• Offering the choice of how involved they wanted to be in managing their health and care data.
•Implementing a supported decision-making model, in line with the underpinning principles and articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
•The availability of accessible communication.
•Addressing gaps in national and regional data gathering to improve analysis.

Since 2011, the ALLIANCE has managed A Local Information System for Scotland (ALISS). The ALISS programme is a national digital service funded by the Scottish Government and co-produced with citizens and professionals. It helps people find and share information about local organisations, groups, services, and activities that can support people’s health and wellbeing.

ALISS information is crowdsourced, meaning that organisations, groups, and individuals across Scotland work together to build and maintain this.

In the summer of 2021 the ALLIANCE, VOX Scotland and Scottish Care in partnership with citizens, coproduced a set of five principles, which outlined a human rights-based approach to digital health and social care:
•People at the Centre
•Digital where it’s best suited
•Digital as a choice
•Digital inclusion, not just widening access
•Access and control of digital data

These are some of the priorities of the Digital Citizen Panel. To me, digital transformation should be a cocktail: scaling up activity like the panel’s; realising the potential for digital to reduce health inequity and; a vigour for empowering ordinary people with resilience and solutions at their core.

Chigozie Joe Adigwe is Digital Network Officer at the ALLIANCE. She is among the speakers at Holyrood's Public Sector Digital Transformation Conference

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