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“More Effective” Leadership Needed for Scottish Government Digitisation Drive

Ross Kelly


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The Scottish Government does not have a “complete picture” of what has been achieved so far in its public sector digital strategy. 

The Scottish Government must demonstrate ‘more effective strategic leadership’ to encourage and promote the digitisation of public services, according to a recently published report.

Enabling Digital Government, published by Audit Scotland, claims that while the Scottish Government has made good progress in implementing digital change, a greater directional focus is required.

The Scottish Government set out its ambitious new digital strategy for the country’s public services in 2017. Investment in digital government was a key component of the strategy. Audit Scotland’s report identified a number of key issues thus far, however. In particular, there has been a lack of clarity in regards to the investment and leadership required to drive the strategy.

Greater clarity is also required to establish a clear picture of the money being spent on digital projects; which spans a number of government departments and bodies. What has been achieved thus far across the public sector is not exactly clear, the report says. More concise information on what actions have had the most impact is required, as well as identifying where there are potential gaps in progress.

“It [the Scottish Government] does not know how much public money is being invested across the public sector to achieve the strategy’s actions, or what is needed to fully deliver on its ambition. This means it cannot properly prioritise the work that will make the biggest impact of public services and learn from experience,” the report reads.

More can also be done to support organisations across the public sector to work collaboratively with each other – and with the third sector and industry, the report recommends. This could include establishing “effective cross-sectoral forums to plan, share knowledge and information, and identify how different programmes interact with each other,” Audit Scotland believes.

Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government is in a unique position to show digital leadership by bringing people together and sharing lessons across Scotland’s public sector. Government’s across the world are facing the same challenge, and bringing about collaboration will not be easy.

“But, Scotland’s relatively small size presents a clear opportunity for the government to move from an operational role to one of strategic leadership and reap all the benefits that shift could bring to citizens and the wider economy.”

A shortage of specialist digital skills is also having a detrimental impact upon the Scottish Government’s strategy, the report adds. This shortage means that prioritising limited resources is becoming increasingly important. Currently, the government provides digital guidance to public bodies, such as involving users in service design.

However, it needs to “more effectively anticipate and plan for the increased demand for new digital skills that new approaches create. The Scottish Government has developed training for existing staff and created new career paths, but a significant skills gap remains”.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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