Scottish digital strategy set out plans for assurance, training and common platforms

Written by Rebecca Hill on 22 March 2017 in News

The Scottish government will implement a “tough” assurance process for digital projects, mandate the use of common technologies and offer training to make sure civil servants “get digital”.

Scottish digital strategy makes pledges to boost innovation, skills and public service design - Photo credit: Flickr, Alisdair McKenzie, CC BY 2.0

The pledges are made in A Digital Strategy for Scotland, which was published today (22 March). The document sets out the nation’s vision for digital that includes stimulating innovation, increasing skills, increasing connectivity and ensuring systems are resilient to cyber attacks.

It also emphasised that the government also needs to up its digital game, and the strategy makes a number of pledges aimed at reforming the way the government designs services and uses technology.

Many of these echo those made by Whitehall, including the use of common technologies, an online identity assurance scheme and implementing an assurance process.

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The Scottish government said it would “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”.

This means using more cloud solutions, mandating the use of common technologies that can be built and procured once, and creating common platforms for services that will encourage innovation both within and outside 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,” the document said.

This, it went on, will increase transparency, reduce costs and move staff away from standard back-office work towards front-line delivery that needs human interaction.

In addition, the Scottish government said it would “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”.

There will also be a move to ensure that all information and services will be provided through a single site,, “rather than as series of disparate websites”.

The Scottish government also said it would develop a secure online identification and verification tool that “will command the trust of the Scottish public” in collaboration with stakeholders, privacy groups and the public.

Again, this mirrors the push from the UK government to boost user numbers for its own identity assurance scheme, GOV.UK Verify from around 1.13 million to 25 million by 2020.

Citizen-led services

The Scottish government’s strategy also said that it wanted the nation to be seen as an “international pioneer of citizen-led service design” and set out plans to develop its own approach to user research and service design.

It will also improve its use of data, saying that it “holds the key to unlocking innovation in public services” and aims to open up non-personal data to encourage this both experimentation and public sector efficiency.

“Better data sharing can generate new insights, stimulate new ideas and deliver potential savings to the public sector of more than £1bn,” the strategy said.

And, like the Government Digital Service has done for the UK, the Scottish government said it would launch a registers platform that will host sets of information to provide a single source of secure and accurate information.

However, it noted that this would also require increased public trust in government use of data, and the government said it would engage with the public to explain the benefits of open data.

It added that it would develop a platform that allows citizens and researchers to see what datasets are held about people and organisations.

Boosting civil servants’ skills

The digital strategy also emphasised that the changes set out in the document would only become a reality if there were government leaders “who truly ‘get digital’ and understand the value that a digital business model can bring”.

This, it said, needed the government to attract, retain and support staff with digital skills and experience of agile working, and the document set out some similar actions to those being taken by the UK government to fight off private sector competition.

This includes the introduction of a digital, data and technology profession in government and the creation of a Skills Academy for Government that will offer open courses across the public sector.

Elsewhere in the document, the government committed to giving all Scottish citizens access to broadband with speeds of at least 30Mbps by 2021, working with schools and employers to tackle the digital skills gap and using city deals to stimulate local digital innovation.

The cabinet secretary for finance and the constitution, Derek Mackay, said that the government wanted to “create a culture and environment of partnership in which we take collective action to ensure that nobody is left behind and we all remain safe, secure and confident about the future”.

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