A new report has revealed that the standard of Scotland’s digital public services is ahead of the rest of the UK and most of Europe.
By using ‘mystery shoppers’, the researchers tested the level of service offered during eight major life events, including starting a business, moving house, and studying.
Scottish public services scored 67% across key benchmarks, a favourable score compared to the UK’s 54% and the European average of 59%.
However, it was still behind the high-performing Nordic countries of Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, with the report noting that additional work is needed on the “building blocks” of digital government to reach their level. The highest-ranking country, Denmark, scored 77%, with the other three Nordics all in the 70s.
With the coronavirus making robust digital services more important than ever, the report highlighted some of Scotland’s success stories, along with areas the country can improve on.
Public Finance Minister Ben Macpherson said: “Scotland is working to become a digital leader in an interconnected world, and the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has made clearer than ever the importance of good digital public services. This report confirms that we’re already ahead of the game when it comes to digital public services and I want to make sure we build on that progress.
“We recognise the researchers’ recommendations for how we can improve further, and we are currently consulting on our draft digital strategy which contains plans to address many of these points. We will continue to work with other European counties to learn from their experiences and share our own.”
The main difference between Scotland’s score and the Nordic countries is a weakness in some of the key digital building blocks, such as an eID system. A standardised online ID system would allow users to identify themselves online across various entities and have all government communication stored online.
At present, only 3% of digital public services in Scotland used pre-filled data versus 42% for the EU27+ average.
However, the report found that Scotland excelled in Cross-Border Mobility, so non-national users and businesses have relative ease obtaining services from Scottish public sector bodies. Scotland also scored highly on User Centricity, with numerous services available online, on desktop and mobile, and with good user support.
Scotland’s security score was also 20% higher than the European average.
The country’s Transparency rating lagged just behind the UK’s and EU27+’s score. This could be improved by offering additional insight into the use of personal data by public sector bodies and more options for participation and communication.
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In addition, the report found discrepancies between national and local services, with local needing improvement. It also found that services to business scored higher marks than citizen-oriented services.
The Scottish Government commissioned consulting firm Capgemini Invent to produce the report as part of work to deliver a refreshed digital strategy for Scotland.
Head of Capgemini Invent in Scotland Fiona Young said: “Well designed and executed digital services should enable citizens and businesses to seamlessly interact with public services, which has also been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Scotland’s position, which is above the EU27+ average, is testimony to the progress made in developing its online government services in line with its digital strategy. Moving forward, a continued focus on social, economic and wellbeing outcomes backed by fiscal measures will help accelerate the transformation and realise its vision of a Digital Scotland.”