Renewing Scotland's full potential in a digital world: consultation

Consultation seeking views on a new digital strategy for Scotland, which reflects the changing digital world in which we live and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

5. Services Working for All

The coronavirus crisis has, more than ever, demonstrated the importance of public services that are secure and resilient, and which are able to adapt and scale in response to changing demands. The response to the crisis in areas like healthcare has also very clearly demonstrated the positive impacts of delivering joined-up digital services.

People and businesses want services that are accessible and simple to use. They want them to be inclusive and designed around the needs of their users, rather than the organisational structures or traditions of the organisations that provide them. Digital technology allows us to deliver services more locally rather than expecting people to travel to our offices, anticipate needs more effectively and to make the connections between the services offered by different organisations so that can respond to needs in a more comprehensive way.

To achieve this we need to:

  • collaborate to deliver end-to-end service journeys to boost people’s wellbeing by enabling them to access vital public services in a way in which is convenient and easy to navigate;
  • work together to create the right conditions and a shared language; and
  • make sure our design methods are inclusive and accessible for everyone, so that we encourage, empower and enable all citizens to participate in designing the services they need.

Although it will take time to deal effectively with the challenges of working with and replacing existing systems, our vision must be consistent with digital and data standards that:

  • use the Digital Scotland Service Standard[3] to make sure that services in Scotland are continually improving and that users are always the focus;
  • embed the Scottish Approach to Service Design and ensure that users are in the room when design decisions are made;
  • promote and safeguard household and individual wellbeing;
  • protect Scotland’s data, to enable resources to be focussed at the frontline, where innovation and a supported personal service can make a difference to the experience of users and the specific needs of a local community;
  • ensure that data is shared within agreed ethical standards and approaches in order to meet user needs;
  • use data to enhance public accountability, drive performance improvement empowering local communities to play an increased role in the design and delivery of local services;
  • use common cloud based technologies for processes that improve quality, and are replicated across public sector organisations, to enable resources to be redirected to front-line local delivery;
  • are open and make code available wherever practicable to stimulate further innovation;
  • enable services to become proactive (for example enabling automatic entitlement without individuals needing to claim themselves, and prevention/early intervention);
  • enable innovation and improved services based on the analysis of real-time information flows to quickly identify trends; and
  • recognise that cyber security is critical to developing digital public services, and so needs to be built in from the start. This is both in terms of systems but also with regard to the application and use of digital solutions, including in workforce development, ensuring that staff at all levels of organisations have the appropriate skills in cyber resilience and cyber security.

Modern government and organisations need to work together to reduce unnecessary duplication of work, improve the way they use data, and the way they deliver services to Scotland’s people. We can achieve this by working together to adopt shared scalable and flexible systems and processes, building the common platforms described in figure 1 and those that already exist; making them work for many different users and services and overcoming the issues of out of date systems and challenges of data sharing.

Figure 1: Common Platforms

Confirming personal identity securely, to access public-sector services digitally.

A wide range of financial transactions.

Applications (forms)
Online forms.

Making information about services and functions accessible online.

Customer Relationship Management
Storing customer data and interaction information.

Management Information (Performance)
Data analysis, and publication of performance information.

Cloud Operations
Supporting public sector to make efficient and secure use of cloud technology.

Potential Actions to ensure that digital public services work for us all:

  • Transform key public services: We will set out new and ambitious reform programmes for key areas of government, including health and social care, learning, justice, planning and agriculture and the rural economy. In each priority area, a partnership of Scottish Government, Local Authorities, and other key stakeholders will work together to set out new, greener ways of working to help deliver a net zero society, that are centred around the people who use our services to boost their wellbeing, and ensure it is easier to deal with government, at all levels, online.
  • A Digital Third Sector: We will work with third sector partners and Digital Participation Charter signatories to enable third sector organisations to develop their digital capabilities and introduce new digital business models. This will promote common standards and technologies across the sector and promote interoperability with public sector partners.
  • A joint Service Innovation Centre: We will develop the highly successful CivTech operation as the centre of public service innovation for national and local government. It will take public service problems and challenges and support entrepreneurs and small businesses to create, launch and implement digital solutions. The backing of the Scottish public sector as a whole will further strengthen Scotland’s reputation for innovation and our competitive position in the international GovTech market.
  • Introduce a digital identity service for users: We will develop and establish a trusted and secure service for users to prove who they are, and that they are eligible for a service. Users will be able to store their information and choose to share it when applying to public services. This will improve a user's access to services by providing a safe and secure way to prove their identity, while reducing time and cost for the public sector. Additionally, we will develop an inclusive approach for all users to ensure that offline services are available for those who are unable to use a digital service.
  • A digital service hub: We will develop a common catalogue of services and service components that will be used as a default across national and local government, including, for example, a common online recruitment service. This will be based on a common architecture, a joint approach to prioritisation, joint design, joint commissioning/procurement and joint governance, delivering efficiencies and simplifying people’s experience of working with and in government. At the heart of this will be a set of common operating platforms as described in figure 1. We will ensure that all new organisations and services across national and local government are built using the platforms. Existing organisations will aim to move to these platforms as they need to replace their systems.
  • Adopt common digital and data standards: We will develop and accelerate the use of a common digital and data standards across the public sector. This will make it easier to join up services for the benefit of the people who use them. We will embed the Scottish Approach to Service Design, and ensure that users are involved in all design decisions, data can be shared where appropriate, teams are resourced and skilled appropriately and that common services and platforms are used as the default. To aid this, a Data Standards community of practice will be formed to develop the ambition, build a roadmap of key steps to be taken and processes to help organisations improve. We will develop a public sector data catalogue, which will make it easier for everyone to see what data is held and to understand how to access it.
  • Protect and create value from Scotland’s data: We will establish Research Data Scotland as an internationally recognised centre of excellence for ethical research that uses the high-quality data we have about people, organisations and places to systematically improve the lives of people in Scotland. Research Data Scotland will use national level anonymised data sets to provide insight to policy makers to improve policy making and allow for a greater public debate on important policy issues. This will build upon the Research Data Scotland Covid19 Service, and COVID 19 Data and Intelligence Network, which have proved invaluable in providing the real-time intelligence required to make rapid decisions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It will also help to attract international business from both academic and commercial partners by establishing Scotland as a centre of data expertise. We will develop a Data Transformation Framework to improve data reuse in the Scottish Public Sector. This will enable our organisations to understand their data maturity with steps and support to improve. Central elements of the Framework will include Data Standards, Ethics and Social Responsibility, Skills and Data Management. We will more of our data available openly, renewing our focus on data which will improve transparency, open government and create economic opportunity.
  • Accessibility: We will make design decisions through the lenses of inclusion and offer clearly signposted alternative ways of accessing services for those who cannot, or do not want to, use digital routes. This will include the development of tools, processes and approaches that will allow identity to be established in a secure and sympathetic way for the digitally excluded. We will ensure that face-to-face services continue to be provided when they are necessary and enhanced, where possible, by technologies that support staff with local decision making and service delivery.

Case Study: NHS Near Me – Accessing Services Remotely

Near Me is a video consulting platform that allows patients and service users to attend appointments remotely – connecting to a virtual waiting room and being dealt with by a clinician online.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic NHS Highland and NHS Shetland had pioneered the use of the service which had seen patients in Shetland avoiding the need to leave the Islands to attend outpatient appointments in Aberdeen; and patients in Thurso avoiding a six hour, 240 mile round trip to Inverness.

Consultation was due to be rolled out gradually in 2020 following several years of development. These plans were rapidly accelerated - transforming the way people are engaging with health and care services. As part of the immediate response to Covid-19, the Near Me programme, working with local boards, has enabled video consulting to be available in nearly every GP practice and many secondary care services, social work teams and care homes in Scotland.

Before March 2020, there were around 300 Near Me consultations a week in Scotland: by the end of June, that figure had risen to almost 17,000 a week. With a patient survey saying 98% would use the service again.

Case Study: Smart Cities – Using The Internet Of Things To Improve Street Lighting

Through the Scottish Cities Alliance millions of pounds are being invested to make Scotland’s cities smarter, using new technologies to accelerate and transform the delivery of city services.

Local Authorities, including Glasgow City Council, have introduced a network of intelligent street lighting as part of ongoing initiatives to improve digital infrastructure in our cities. Intelligent street lighting systems consist of a network of street lights that communicate with each other, allowing for more control and efficiency, while harnessing the power of real time data to improve both lighting and safety throughout the city. Intelligent street lighting can be controlled, dimmed, and can alert users of any faults as they occur, avoiding the need to wait for a complaint to be received.

The system also supports our environmental ambitions, providing savings on annual street lighting energy consumption and costs.

Case Study: Historic Environment Scotland – Using The Internet Of Things To Better Manage Remote Sites

The Internet of Things enables us to collect data about our world offering new understandings, highlighting patterns and enabling more efficient ways of working to be developed. For Historic Environment Scotland, managing 251 unstaffed sites – some in very remote areas – presents many challenges. Even basic information, such as visitor numbers, cannot be accurately determined as traditional footfall counters can be unreliable and triggered by wild animals. Historic Environment Scotland put forward a CivTech Challenge “How do you collect meaningful data from their remote sites?”

A company called Wilderness Sensors emerged as the successful applicant with a rugged, low-powered Internet of Things device, capable of remotely transmitting information such as real-time visitor numbers and environmental information. As these devices operate in remote locations, far from power sources, the sensor uses self-monitoring, sophisticated power management and energy harvesting technologies – all of which helps to reduce maintenance costs.

Armed with a much deeper insight into what is happening at remote sites allows Historic Environment Scotland to better prioritise investment in staffing, conservation, long term environmental impact analysis and maintenance.

Case Study: Using Artificial Intelligence To Improve Customer Service

Scotland’s Councils continue to innovate and re-design services around people and their needs.

Aberdeen City Council has launched a chatbot (AB1) which responds to questions on a series of its essential services, and which has been developed as part of the council’s collaboration with Microsoft. AB1 can directly answer residents’ questions about waste and recycling, roads and street lighting, education and council tax or signpost them to relevant information. AB-1 has the capability to “learn” how to deal with queries and the number of services it covers will continue to expand.

By harnessing Artificial Intelligence, Councils are transforming service delivery - increasing convenience for customers, freeing staff to carry out specialised tasks, and saving public money in the process.

Case Study: Delivering Services Once For Scotland To Improve Customer Service

‘’ is designed to transform communications between schools and parents, replacing the traditional schoolbag run with direct digital communications.

It provides secure access to parents to a wide range of online services and information about their child’s education. Developed by the Improvement Service and SEEMiS, the portal’s aims to improve parental engagement, reduce administrative burden and provide convenience for busy parents. 7 Local Authorities use it, 6 more are on boarding, and more will follow. With schools returning the portal enjoyed its most successful month ever in August 2020, breaking new records for: number of schools making it available; parental subscribers; authentication requests; returning visitors.

Parents can sign-in using myaccount, the secure and easy way to access public services online in Scotland.

Case Study: Registers Of Scotland – Digital Transforming The Way People Access Services By Putting The User At The Heart Of Service Design

In response to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, Registers of Scotland (RoS) accelerated its plans to transform its submissions process.

Rapidly moving from a paper to a digital system, it has launched five new online services. People were at the heart of the development process with 58 research sessions involving 126 service users taking place between March and July 2020.

Customers are now able to upload their documents for processing in a matter of minutes rather than relying on more time consuming delivery methods such as post and courier services.

It is anticipated that these benefits will support a faster, greener, more resilient conveyancing process by reducing, where possible, reliance on physical processes.

It is estimated that digital ways of working have decreased RoS’ monthly paper usage by over 99%. Significantly reducing its carbon footprint by moving from an average of 250,000 sheets of paper down to only 500. It is also expected to save RoS over £75,000 in terms of annual postal contracts.



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