Issue 1: December 2011


Opening GovCamp Scotland, John Swinney’s keynote speech was not a list of claimed government achievements – although naturally that did follow – but a powerful re-iteration of the need for developing effective partnerships in order to ensure the achievement of some of the ambitions and objectives seen as essential to the Digital Scotland strategy.

“Our digital strategy made clear that getting to that point is not something that the Scottish Government can or should seek to deliver alone. Delivering Scotland’s Digital Future will require co-ordinated action and support from partners across Scotland. Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter, which my colleague Fiona Hyslop will sign on behalf of the Scottish Government this afternoon, is a first step in developing these new partnerships to deliver our shared outcomes for Scotland.“

So, an increased government emphasis on developing Digital Scotland can be measured by the amount of Ministerial interest and emphasis placed on the importance of this. The recent GovCamp event had three Cabinet Secretaries involved, each reflecting their different perspectives and contributions to policy and practice development.

John Swinney opened the event with his keynote speech with Alex Neil - neatly acknowledging our opportunities and requirement to shift such events into a mixed mode of participation - joining in online. At a later point in the day, Fiona Hyslop signed up the government to the Digital Participation Charter.

Swinney continued in his presentation to make the point that while digital participation and engagement is extremely important, other forms of partnership - for example of the kind that John McClelland had urged in his report on public sector ICT infrastructure - were equally important. “Ensuring that Scotland has the right enabling infrastructure is ... one of the top priorities of the Scottish Government in this parliamentary term.“

Ensuring that Scotland has the right enabling infrastructure is ... one of the top priorities of the Scottish Government in this parliamentary term.

He also acknowledged that government itself had a great deal to do in improving it’s use of digital technologies by becoming what he described as “an intelligent consumer of digital infrastructure, technology and services“ and using the large scale impact of government digital use to influence and drive demand and to secure private sector investment.

We were also promised a developing process of engagement “...with industry, with the wider public sector and with other interested parties, including those representing the interests of consumers, in the coming weeks and months". It is not yet clear what specific form the Cabinet Secretary or the government see this engagement taking, but the emphasis does suggest more commitment by government to such partnership working than we have seen previously.

Later in his speech, Mr Swinney acknowledged the shortfall in household access to the most common digital technologies, with Scotland still comparing unfavourably to some other countries. An Ofcom report of earlier this year suggested that only approximately 60% of Scottish households have home broadband access, the lowest in the 4 UK nations . Even when all means of accessing digital technologies are taken into account that figure only rises to just over 70%. Equally, business digital participation rates in Scotland at around 80% are lower than comparable business engagement levels in England. In all home nations, access to these now essential technologies is lower than in many other countries including near neighbours such as Denmark and Sweden.

John Swinney also referred to his interests as Cabinet Secretary for Finance saying that with budgets pressing for his attention, digital channels can offer “cheaper and more effective public services”. He also expressed government awareness of the extent to which different levels of access to digital technologies could mean some people not being able to benefit from lower cost and more effective public services delivered in this way.

An awareness by government of this shortfall is a starting point, but presents perhaps the toughest challenge to government and other public service agencies in creating a truly Digital Scotland.


Issue 1: December 2011


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