Scottish Prison Service doubles digital team

Written by Ruaraidh Gilmour on 28 November 2022 in News

Organisation has also made significant use of contractors

Credit: Pete Linforth/Pixabay

The Scottish Prison Service has doubled the size of its in-house tech team after rapidly scaling up its use of digital services in the last two years.

SPS head of digital services at Nigel Ironside said ten contractors were also brought in to improve cyber resilience and support the rapid adoption of digital services during the pandemic.

Ironside explained that digitising parts of the prison service “requires a set of skills that we have not had before”. But these skills can come at a high cost and in one instance was not viable, he said: “When I asked the business for a data architect, we went away and found they earn more than the chief executive.”  

This has left the SPS, and other public sector bodies, to pursue “a hybrid mode” of digital expertise. And the cost, particularly over the pandemic, is high due to contractor fees. 

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Ironside , who speaking at a roundtable event hosted by PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, ,said: “I spend, no word of a lie, about £1m a year on contractor fees. I have two cyber resilience experts now, but I can only afford them until March. I am spending £200,000 on two bodies.”

As the severity of the pandemic has lessened the SPS has now entered a consolidation period and has doubled the size of its digital team, employing 15 new people to work on the digital acceleration of the service.  

They have been proactive in bringing down future cyber-related costs. Ironside has recently recruited two cyber apprentices that are being put through college with the view to bringing them into the business. He said: “That is the future of how we go forward.”

A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “With support from the Scottish Government, SPS has invested heavily in digital in recent years, further developing our digital functionality, capability and protection across the organisation. The last few years have seen a rise in both digital expectation and digital risk – challenges, which we must continue to respond to. Similarly, digital competence is an integrated aspect of pro-social citizenship today and as such the people in our care cannot be isolated from the rapid advancements, we are all seeing in the world around us.

"Improved access to digital technology will aid rehabilitation, education, close family connections and community integration, all of which are critical aspects of reducing re-offending and making Scotland safer. Our long-term ambition to expand the use of a safe digital system aligned with increased digital access and functionality not only benefit those in our care and their families, but also our communities and the wider justice sector.  Ensuring we have the right mix of skills to deliver these outcomes will see us respond to a competitive employment market in securing and developing our organisational abilities in this area.”


About the author

Ruaraidh Gilmour is a reporter at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @Ruaraidh0.

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