5 Vision for a Digital Public Sector
Given these advantages and opportunities how can a "digital public sector" be created and one that delivers the type of benefits described above? What would its features be and how would it operate in five to ten years from now?
Firstly as with all appropriate ICT solutions it should be driven by user needs and demands. And in the context of that principle it can be asserted that individual citizens, communities in which they live and the businesses and organisation in which they work, are the ultimate users of, and indeed ultimately the funders of, our public services.
This report offers a high-level vision for the provision of public services that not only has information and communication technology at its heart, but also at all its points of communication and interaction.
Here are just some of the ways in which the daily life of citizens can be improved and made easier through the effective use of digital technology.
The quality of services delivered should be enhanced as a result of the use of ICT and within this report there are many examples of how services and their delivery have already been improved. In a future vision the quality benefits offered by these exemplars would be widely available. For example telemedicine and telecare would be open to all who need it and "smart homes" technology would be prevalent in its use to support the care of the elderly and other groups needing care. Results from x-rays and scans would be communicated to all patients in days or even hours through the use of digital technologies for the transmission and storage of images.
All routine transactions with local authorities should be able to be completed via the internet. In addition to enhancing quality these online services would also help avoid travel with its impact on time, timing and sustainability.
It should be standard to request all public services through the internet. For example requesting and scheduling doctor and hospital appointments online should be the norm and making service requests and complaints to local authorities would be the same. There should be online council tax management and payment and those engaging with local councils on matters such as revenue and benefits should be able to provide information and make claims online. And of course all follow-up and communication with a public body such as a local authority or a health service should be electronic as these bodies use ICT internally to process and manage the services they provide. The utilisation of other general services should also be accessed through the internet. For example it should be possible to "visit the library" and access books without physically going there.
Access should recognise trends in the use of devices so that citizens are able to join service networks via handheld and other mobile equipment with onboard applications. And, where appropriate, links to and from citizen services should recognise the significance of social networking sites and their value in personal and general telecommunications.
There should be a single citizen portal that routes those accessing to the appropriate site and one standard way of achieving authentication for each citizen irrespective of the type of service being sought.
Physical access to facilities such as leisure centres, libraries and other public service buildings and offerings should be electronically enabled and without entrance complexities. The same should apply to concessionary public transport across Scotland and other services where physical access is involved. The use of "smart cards or devices" to authenticate entitlement should be prevalent and that technology should be standard across the public sector with multi-purpose use for all relevant services.
And of course for pupils and students the learning experience can be made more effective and satisfying through the use of learning support technologies. Additionally access to the internet should be constantly available to support study wherever it takes place. And again "smart device or card" capabilities should ensure easy access to other more general services.
The public service employees who travel to clients and patients should be digitally enabled through mobile technologies that allow immediate online access to records and other essential information.
Similarly employees who work from home or remote locations should have the support of technology that allows them to work on their own or with a team independent of physical location.
An aspect of the digital society that is becoming more relevant is the citizen's need for services to be offered in a seamless way across existing boundaries within the public sector so that multiple access points, duplicated provision of electronic information and multiple and different modes of authentication be avoided. Also, although sensitive to information protection and privacy issues, the citizen would expect that public bodies will share and move information across these internal boundaries particularly where there is an advantage to the citizen or the community when this happens. In this way the elderly, sick and other vulnerable groups can be supported without difficulty when their needs cross organisation boundaries.
The capacity and performance of broadband available to citizens and businesses should meet their expectations and in particular the life of the remote or rural citizen or operation of a business should not be disadvantaged. Digital technologies should offer those in that category comparable service levels and access as "digital inclusion" for all is important.
Citizens and businesses will also demand as the ultimate funders of these services that internal ICT resources and procured capabilities and technologies are not only extensively adopted but are also deployed in a way that minimises the cost to the taxpayer of ICT enablement and at the same time is respectful of the environment and its sustainability. They will also expect that new technologies and concepts are adopted at the appropriate time.
The framework for ICT within the public sector to support this vision should include some key and important elements.
There should be a pragmatic recognition of what is core or non-core activity for individual organisations within the sector so that ultimate capability can be maximised without each organisation being self-sufficient in providing all of its ICT needs.
For example each individual organisation should have an "information officer" accountable to that organisation. However the services delivered would originate from different sources. There would be some delivered locally while others would be provided from either central or regional centres for that specific sector. Where appropriate, other infrastructure such as broadband should be regarded as intra public sector utilities. However, the capacity of broadband and its speed should be consistent with that offered by new broadband communication technologies and comparable to those available in other advanced economies. Also there should be central national coordination of "design authority" factors such as standards, protocols and data security.
The ICT structures, technologies and practices should support
the ideal of having seamless
cross-sector integration and or transfer of data.
The underlying principle of this ICT framework should be to provide effective services in support of the vision at the very best possible value to the public purse. In addition the use and delivery of ICT services should be respectful of our environment and supportive of sustainability goals.
In summary, although this vision for a "digital public sector" may take some time to achieve completely for all in the nation, these are realistic expectations and are capable of being delivered.
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