2. Executive Summary
Connecting Scotland is a government funded programme, currently operating under governmental budget allocation. To make the service sustainable for the long term, the programme must adapt its mode of operation to one that is affordable in the current climate.
In line with Connecting Scotland’s values and mission, putting users at the heart of everything must be the central theme for design and development of Connecting Scotland, including the business operating model. The output from recent user research sessions and findings from the initial phases of Connecting Scotland and feedback from stakeholders are factored into the Full Business Case to ensure that the model defined is appropriate for the needs of the people who will use the service.
Connecting Scotland is at a turning point. Despite financial constraints, the evidence from the programme demonstrates the far-reaching benefits and numerous tie-ins with government priorities from what has been achieved so far. It is therefore imperative that the direction chosen harnesses the opportunities presented by the current situation, while fully accounting for risk and outlining the potential drawbacks of each option.
There are significant capital costs identified with the Ministerial commitment to provide internet connectivity and skills to up to 300,000 households via Connecting Scotland. In addition to the additional “starter investment” identified of £200 million, there may be additional costs should the programme also agree to replace a percentage of devices already provided, as well as agree to continue connectivity for a percentage of the original and subsequent cohorts that still cannot afford to fund their own.
The Connecting Scotland team is the first component of the new Digital Citizen Unit, with the Ethical Digital Nation team subsequently joining and further teams to follow. This presents opportunities to connect with other relevant policy areas and external partners during activities to establish the Unit within the digital landscape and set the programme’s direction. A medium-term aim for Connecting Scotland is to operate as a central hub service within Scottish Government for digital inclusion, acting as a much-needed bridge between user and organisational needs in this space. This work expands outwards too, connecting funders, initiatives, organisations and individuals more in a concerted approach to tackling digital exclusion.
This executive summary details the recommended option for the future of the Connecting Scotland operating model, providing clarity on the rationale for these recommendations and how it will impact the legacy of the programme.
2.2 The future of Connecting Scotland
Decisions must be made regarding the scope of service Connecting Scotland will provide in the future. This Full Business Case (FBC) will therefore consider opportunities to extract better value for money within the current model (for example, by tailoring the level of support to distinct groups rather than providing the full service as default). Importantly, the impact that the Connecting Scotland has had and can have in the future links directly to the National Performance Framework, and to the principles of making the people of Scotland happier, healthier and wealthier in a fairer and greener society.
Consideration has also been given to expanding even further the range of partners we work with to provide a more stratified service that’s able to flex and meet sets of user needs more directly. This would mean further exploration of options – such as providing reconditioned devices; login to free Wi-Fi using access credentials; and promotion of a National Mobile Data Bank – as potential alternatives to the support levels that were offered previously. Operating in this manner will have the widest reach in terms of numbers, while reducing costs as much as possible.
There were several different decisions that could have been taken on the future of the Connecting Scotland programme. Connecting Scotland could have been handed over to another organisation to take forward, or continued under a different model, separate from Scottish Government. The models around these possible independent directions have not been considered for recommendation at this time due to cost and timescales for implementation. Significant work has been undertaken to understand what this will mean in terms of impact and risk, and should the financial situation change, these options can be revisited.
Whatever scope of service and operating model is chosen, the value of the service Connecting Scotland provides has been proven conclusively – not only to the individuals supported by the programme, but in the multiple ways that this digital inclusion work builds towards progress on a range of priority government outcomes. As the world becomes increasingly more digital, accelerated by the pandemic, Connecting Scotland’s outcomes align with policy across a range of portfolios, including homelessness, poverty, health, social security, education and the economy. It is therefore vital that the programme continues, whatever form that might take, to maximise the numbers of people that can be supported to use digital services.
After careful consideration, the Connecting Scotland team is recommending one option:
Option 2 - Systems and capacity building activities plus partnership programmes
This option is explained in greater detail for the Minister’s consideration in section 4.2 of this FBC.
Furthermore, the following key groups have been identified as the primary targets under the new model:
- The Six Priority Family Groups to tackle child poverty: Those families on low income and young children with a specific need to address child poverty targets.
- People who are unemployed or who need to enhance their skills sets: People that are currently seeking employment, looking to upskill themselves to compete in a digital world or those that are seeking to complete education to a specific level.
- People who are substantially above average users of public services: People that currently do or would benefit from actively engaging in online public services, e.g., people with underlying health conditions (mental and physical), older individuals or those on low/fixed incomes.
The evidence for this selection is detailed in paragraph 3.2.2 below. Consideration was also given to closure of the programme, but this is not recommended, particularly given the evidence set out in this document. The recommended model allows vital work on digital inclusion to continue, although to a recognised lesser extent than first envisaged.
2.4 The five case model
This FBC utilises the five case model, the HM Treasury standard for business cases. This provides a management tool for decision makers and stakeholders providing:
- The basis for evidence-based and transparent decision making
- A framework for the delivery, management and performance monitoring of the common payment service within the Beta phase of development.
The five cases within the model are described below:
Case: Strategic Case
Purpose: Shows how a project is supported by a compelling case for change that provides a holistic fit with other parts of the Scottish Government and the Public Sector landscape in Scotland.
Case: Economic Case
Purpose: Provides the evidence that a project represents best public value. It does this by considering the potential options for change.
Case: Commercial Case
Purpose: Demonstrates that the proposed project is attractive to the marketplace, can be procured and is commercially viable.
Case: Financial Case
Purpose: Shows that the proposed spend is affordable.
Case: Management Case
Purpose: Demonstrates that what is required from all parties to deliver a project is achievable.
2.5 Business case details
Project Name: Connecting Scotland
Project Sponsor: Geoff Huggins, Director of Digital Directorate
Project Manager: Eilidh McLaughlin, Head of Digital Citizen Unit
Service description: Connecting Scotland is a government funded programme, currently operating using governmental budget allocation. This FBC sets out the range of costed options for continuation of the programme under current financial restrictions
Partner organisation(s): Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)
Project Reference: CS/FBC1
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