Realising Scotland's full potential in a digital world: a digital strategy for Scotland

Scotland's refreshed digital strategy sets out our vision for Scotland as a vibrant, inclusive, open and outward looking digital nation.

Chapter 3

"A World-Class Digital Scotland requires a World-Class Digital Government."

Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary Finance and the Constitution

Digital Scotland:

  • Has a public sector that operates on contemporary, digital, platform-based business models
  • Is led by a government that "gets digital" and supports its staff to operate in digital ways

Digital Transformation is about far more than merely providing public services on line. These services form an infrastructure that is critical to the economic success of this country and must be provided in ways that makes sense to our users, rather than the ways in which we have chosen to organise ourselves. We will therefore match the expansion of digital public services with reform of the structure and ways of working of the organisations that deliver them.

"We will achieve our vision that, by 2020, all Councils in Scotland will be digital businesses."

Lorraine McMillan, Chief Executive, East Renfrewshire Council and Chair of the Local Government Transformation Board

Our approach demands that we:

  • Simplify and standardise ways of working across the public sector so that it becomes easier to use our services and we don't waste time and money reinventing wheels
  • Deploy common technologies that can be built and procured once rather than multiple times
  • Create common digital platforms for services that will encourage Scottish public and voluntary sector organisations to innovate in the delivery of public services
  • Make better use of cloud-based solutions as a source of both cost reduction and service innovation
  • Provide transparent information on the costs and performance of public services and respond quickly to feedback from the users of our services
  • Ensure that the platforms and technologies are both secure and resilient

"Digital business models and a digital culture in Government can transform public services in Scotland."

Professor Alan Brown
Executive Director, Surrey Centre for the Digital Economy

We will mandate the use of these common capabilities across Scottish Government and its Executive agencies and work with partners to introduce them more widely across the public sector. This moves us away from a public sector in which individual organisations do everything for themselves, to one in which standardised processes are delivered across traditional boundaries. This will increase levels of transparency around the costs and quality of our services and enable our organisations to re-prioritise their work and move staff from standard "back office" work - which could in future be provided on their behalf by another organisation - towards front-line service delivery where the human interaction is vital.

The Scottish Government can only lead the digital transformation of the public sector if it becomes a truly digital organisation in its own right. This requires leaders who truly "get digital" and understand the value that a digital business model can bring. It needs us to attract, retain and develop staff who understand user needs, have good situational awareness and who can implement agile programmes and make appropriate technology choices. It also means that we must support these staff with the technology they require to work smartly and collaborate effectively with their colleagues and stakeholders.

The transformation of the Scottish Government will be enabled by digital and we expect all our delivery organisations to set out their plans and priorities for change. It will, of course, take time to embed a deep digital culture into government and to realise the benefits in terms of efficiency and service quality that this will bring. However, the Scottish Government is well placed to do this. Our long-established commitment to working in partnership with other sectors of the economy and the way in which we are organised into a series of flexible, outward-looking directorates, rather than a more traditional structure of rigid government departments make it easier to realise the collaborative potential of the internet. Critically, the introduction of new powers in areas such as social security, provides us with an opportunity to introduce digital business models on "green field sites" and use the learning, along with experience from around the world, to transform the more established parts of our organisation.

We recognise, of course, that significant investments in digital/ ICT carry with them an element of risk. Our digital first standard and the widespread use of value chain mapping will allow us to identify commodity services that can be procured from the market and those which require innovative digital solutions where a more agile approach is needed in order to minimise risk. At the same time, we are committed to introducing a tough new assurance process. This will give expert assessors from within and, where necessary, outside government, the ability to stop programmes of work that are falling short of the required standards.


Actions to transform the public sector:

  • Introduce shared technology platforms, starting with common approaches to publishing information, applying for services, and making/receiving payments
  • Transform the administration of grant funding and licensing across the Scottish Government with an initial focus on our rural and environmental services
  • Move public sector data hosting to a cloud environment wherever this is appropriate in terms of security and efficiency
  • Launch a Registers platform to host registers of information that will be held once and offer single sources of secure and accurate information
  • Develop and extend Civtech across the Scottish public sector and work through Public Contracts Scotland to enable greater collaboration with a growing Scottish market
  • Extend the use of existing national assets such as, GLOW, National Entitlement Cards ( NEC) and SWAN across the public sector
  • Establish a new group of senior academics to challenge our thinking, identify best international practice and ensure that Scotland remains at the cutting edge of digitally enabled public service reform


Actions to build a Digital Government:

  • Establish all new government organisations as digital businesses based on a clear digital business model
  • Ensure that all digital services developed by the Scottish Government meet our Digital First Standard
  • Implement tough new assurance processes for central government projects with the power to stop projects that do not meet user needs or represent good value for money
  • Review all major software licensing arrangements to ensure that they represent value for money
  • Mandate the use of common platforms and infrastructure, including cloud hosting, as appropriate across the Scottish Government
  • Introduce a new digital, data and technology profession within the Scottish Government to attract and retain the talent we need across these disciplines
  • Enhance the Central Government Digital Transformation Service to provide access to scarce digital skills including software developers, user researchers, business analysts and digital programme managers
  • Launch a new Skills Academy for Government and open its courses and support across the public service landscape
  • Offer all public sector leaders the opportunity to attend a "Digital Champions" programme
  • Equip Scottish Government staff with modern digital tools which will enable them to work seamlessly from different locations and engage more closely with the communities they serve
  • Introduce broader cloud-based collaboration tools which extend to delivery partners who do not operate on the government secure network


Email: Alan Rodden

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