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Private Sector ‘Setting the Digital Transformation Agenda’ For ScotGov

Duncan MacRae


Colin Cook

“Expectations of services we provide are, in many ways, set by private sector experiences,” said Colin Cook, director of digital, Scottish Government.

The pace of change in the private sector’s digital services is driving a need for public services to keep pace, according to the Scottish Government.

Customer service is crucial to the success of all organisations regardless of the sectors they operate in. With consumers receiving increasingly sophisticated levels of customer service from private sector firms, public sector bodies are now expected to deliver similar standards of service.

Colin Cook, director of digital, Scottish Government, said: “Expectations are continuing to increase, and expectations of the kind of services that we provide are in many ways set by private sector experiences.

“If people expect to be able to access services from the private sector 24 hours a day, and instantly, then they expect to be able to do the same with the public sector. So it sets out our agenda, and I think we’ve made good progress there.”

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The Scottish Government is striving to ensure that the nation’s digital public services are “high-quality, continually improving and responsive to citizens’ needs”.

As part of its national digital strategy, it has been working to introduce shared technology platforms as a core part of the process of public service reform. It wants to design key public services in areas such as health and social care, justice and social security around users’ needs.

It also aims to establish all new government organisations as digital businesses and ensure that all digital services developed by Scottish Government meet its Digital First Service Standard. This Standard is a set of 22 criteria that all digital services developed by Scottish Central Government sector organisations and Scottish Government corporate services must meet.


All organisations are now wrestling with the fundamental transformation of their services, though, Cook noted. “That is harder,” he said. “That’s the stuff that the public doesn’t see. It’s about cultures, ways of working and legacy technologies, and that will take a longer time. But we really are focused on it and we know that we need to make those changes. We will do.

“I think we’ve made incredible progress. And not just within the Scottish Government or within my team. I think, if we roll back four or five years, I don’t think we would have envisaged that, in Scotland, we’d have had a local government digital office coordinating transformation activities in 32 local authorities.

“I don’t think we’d have thought we’d have had a health and social care digital strategy that commits to the same standards and assurance processes as we do centrally. And I don’t think we could have envisaged that some of the organisations within the Scottish Government would have transformed in the way in which they have over that period.”

Cook was speaking today (8th of May) at Sprint: Edinburgh, an event showcasing the progress and potential of digital transformation across Scotland and the UK.

Ministers, senior civil servants and digital practitioners, met at the conference at Edinburgh’s EICC, to share updates about the work being undertaken to transform services, develop capability and ensure Scotland and the UK are world-leading digital nations.

Duncan MacRae


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