Digital Public Services

Our aim is that Scotland's digital public services are joined-up, efficient and designed with and for citizens.

What are the key actions that should be taken forward, and by whom, to achieve delivery of this objective?

Why the contribution is important

The digital transformation of public services is central to our public service reform agenda, reducing cost and improving services. We will design our public services in collaboration with the people who use them, and develop common approaches and technologies which can be used across the public sector. This approach can both save money and help reshape the way in which we deliver health and social care, extend access to education and provide a justice system that is fit for the future. The introduction of new powers, in particular, offers an opportunity to introduce new digital ways of designing services which are both highly efficient and meet the expectations of their users.

by ScottishGovernment on November 03, 2016 at 12:19PM

Current Rating

Average score : 2.0
Based on : 2 votes


  • Posted by sroebuck November 14, 2016 at 22:57

    Most public sector services have existing computer systems that are based around very complex central databases. The very size and complexity of these systems makes them hard to adapt and slows down innovation and change.

    There is a high risk that the valuable desire to join-up services may be assumed to require joining up the databases that are behind them. Doing so would create exponentially more complex systems and would involve data sharing that might raise concerns from the public who are increasingly concerned about the use of private data. In the future these systems would be even more impossible to change.

    An alternative is to move towards giving individuals direct ownership and control over the sharing and use of their data. Giving each citizen a data vault which could be used for everything from personal health records to exam results and homework. Rather than centralising population data into big databases, the data is spread out into individual stores which are highly suited to joined up service use but less easily abused for mass data analysis.
  • Posted by Rab November 15, 2016 at 22:49

    Agree on more ownership of your own data.
    Also - signals are required. Do we want to follow Estonia or just to keep chatting with them? Why not introduce digital voting.
    One of the main problems with introducing transformational change is that it applies to everyone but 'us'. Us being the board, managers or ... ministers. If you mean it prove it!
  • Posted by LukeRadford November 21, 2016 at 14:22

    There is a level of digital capability now available that Scotland has the opportunity to reimagine the way in which public services are designed and delivered taking advantage of the potential rather than just redesigning delivery of the existing to incorporate technology.

    A digital Scotland needs to be prepared to wipe the slate clean and reimagine service delivery from the perspective of a digital citizen. A Data Designed approach needs to be taken – not only using the data to anticipate the services required but in using for competitive advantage by opening up to enterprises within Scotland.

    The danger is that focus is on the journey that needs to be undertaken rather than what can happen once the destination is reached. Key to success will be breaking down the knowledge (and data) silos, achieving the cultural change and being prepared to ask ‘What if…’
  • Posted by ScotGovDigitalChris November 22, 2016 at 11:02

    Thanks for your comments so far. Rab, we are engaging with Estonia and learning from their experience. Also, digital voting is one of the things we are currently looking at, as we refresh our digital strategy.
  • Posted by ScotGovDigitalChris November 22, 2016 at 11:04

    Luke, welcome this comment. Our approach to service design is not about digitising existing journeys, but takes a holistic approach to engaging citizens and users in how we design our public services. We need to fundamentally rethink how we do this – initiatives like the digital ecosystem (common processes and technologies to support digital services) and the Scottish Approach to Service Design (putting users at the heart of designing services), driven by collaboration, and supported by the effective use of data, will create the conditions for the kind of cultural change you have identified.
  • Posted by lesleyfordyce_PAConsulting December 12, 2016 at 11:05

    Tough digital love for Digital public services
    • We need a great ambassador for digital in Scotland – who is our Martha Lane Fox equivalent?
    • When you say ‘digital by default’ then mean it – channels need to be removed when new channels introduced and we need to be bold about the scope of digital. A good example is in the support provided to businesses – there should be one solution that enables access by entrepreneurs and businesses for advice (private, public and third sector), information, funding requests etc – face-to-face resources can then be redirected to deliver bigger impact
    • Focus Political energy on fixing the big challenges that are stopping changes from happening – Information Governance, data security, headcount reductions, budget flows
    • The delivery of digital solutions and services needs the public sector to embrace Agile delivery yet we know that there is a reluctance to do so in some areas and that is more about the politics than the capabilities – take the politics out of digital delivery
    • Address the absence of good technology delivery in the Scottish public sector – show that it is achievable before you ask the service to change
    • Allow public services to take more risks – worrying about whether their project is going to be the one in front of a Parliamentary Committee won’t reduce the risk profile – deliver in small iterations that constrain time and cost to support a higher risk appetite with a lower consequence of failure.
  • Posted by adamosprey December 13, 2016 at 12:28

    This comment has been removed by a moderator.

  • Posted by jamesduff December 14, 2016 at 10:28

    Digital Public services are unique to each organisation and although in an ideal world it would be great for a more joined up approach.

    However, due to complex natures of some legacy systems, members of the public worrying about how their personal data is shared, this is an area that would need significant investment and modernisation to make a state of the art joined up services for citizens of Scotland.
  • Posted by jamiegreeneUK December 14, 2016 at 13:58

    One of the most significant barriers to the digital transformation of public services in Scotland is the approach to public procurement which favours larger firms. Specifications for digital services are often written by civil servants who lack the technical expertise before the problem at hand is fully understood. What’s more, differing approaches to public procurement across Scottish regions, such as secure authentication services for Councils, lead to solutions which are built in isolation. The public is then faced with a range of interfaces of differing quality and security, depending on the region or sector they wish to access, leading to service inequality.

    Healthcare is one area where digital inequalities are most prevalent. In one town you might be able to make appointments, access your medical records and order repeat prescriptions from your GP online. In another you need to make a phone call, wait a fortnight for an appointment and then collect the prescription in person. NHS Education for Scotland's director of digital transformation, Christopher Wroath, recently pointed out that our health services face challenges, in part, down to the lack of ICT skills within the healthcare system itself.

    Public procurement for the digital transformation of public services would benefit from more technical knowledge and up-skilling within in the civil service and public sectors, as well as adjustments to public procurement methods. Such adjustments should benefit Scotland’s smaller digital businesses, in particular, by creating an environment in which they will be willing to invest their time and resources to compete. For example, by reducing the administrative and audit burdens on small companies that may not have extensive in-house accounting and legal services.

    I have direct feedback from many that participating in public service tenders in Scotland is still prohibitive and favours large well established big contractors and well-known outsourced companies. The impression is that often value for money is the only criteria used to assess and decide. It is my view that much thought should be given to helping small, local businesses participate in online tender processes by streamlining the eligibility criteria for them.

    The CivTech pilot programme is an excellent step in this direction and could be complemented with further prizes and incentives for small companies to pitch public sector solutions at local, regional and national level in the future − supporting home-grown talent and ensuring that a range of new ideas reach the public sector before contracts are handed out to the usual suspects.

    Looking at the best practice of the big 5 e-government countries, there is much to learn in how Scotland can truly transform access to government. Personally, I have seen up close how governments in Taiwan, Israel, the Netherlands and Iceland all manage online access to a variety of public portals and whilst some of this requires capital spend to various degrees, it is clear that we should be more open minded to new ways of doing things. We also need a robust IT tender process which guarantees strong project management, value for money to the public purse and accountability throughout the process. I make this not as a political point, but recent failures in public IT tenders and roll-outs are frequently cited and for good reason.
    - Jamie Greene MSP
    Scottish Conservative Spokesman for Technology, Connectivity and the Digital Economy
  • Posted by PaulCameron December 14, 2016 at 22:51

    For this to work, those designing digital services really need to do lots of user testing with user groups (especially disabled, visually impaired and elderly groups) to ensure that their services are fully accessible. This user testing needs to happen at a point in the design process that it can have a meaningful impact on the actual outcome and it is not just a rubber stamping process. Digital services which are well designed with accessibility at their core work for everyone. Development needs to be continual, there are too many examples of boom and bust development when lumps of funding are provided to develop a resource which becomes outdated and difficult to use when technology moves on.
  • Posted by ScotGovDigitalChris December 15, 2016 at 15:31

    Thanks for all your comments. We will fully consider these views as we develop the strategy over the coming period.
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