Building digital inclusion
There are a multitude of forces driving the adoption of new technology. Availability, commoditisation, pay-as-you-go contracts, minimum upfront investment, emerging technologies, trends and citizen demand have all influenced and created new products and services over the years. The pace of change and technology adoption is faster now than ever. For Scotland, there are three compelling reasons which mean that now is the time for public services to take advantage of the opportunities that digital transformation brings to create a new relationship with citizens
- Reduced budgets: Scottish Government targets and ongoing cost pressures mean that Local Authorities and other public services in Scotland will be required to deliver ‘more for less’ in the years ahead. To face the challenges of increasing public expectation, population growth and value for money, leadership within Scottish public services must be decisive, brave, learn fast, leverage innovation and accelerate collaboration between silos across all sectors.
- Increased citizen demand and expectation: Many Scottish citizens expect a personalised and digital public service, tailored and predictive – just like their Amazon account. Receiving excellent online services or even using mobile apps that exceed expectation used to be a pleasant surprise. Yet now, Scottish citizens are beginning to want much more from technology in all areas. Our citizens are digitally maturing and will soon simply expect their local councils, hospitals, transport and education services to provide the same kind of automated, personalised and modernised experience that they have in all other aspects of their lives.
- The technology is available: More and more people are using mobile devices, anywhere at any time. Some public services recognise that this new operating environment enables them to adopt a more pragmatic, two-speed technology investment: balancing traditional IT priorities such as stability, reliability, security, and efficiency, with digital speed and agility to deliver innovation and real-time cutting-edge services. As citizens become more digitally connected with public services, the data that they generate will enable Scottish public services to gain actionable intelligence about behaviour and preferences that has never before been available, establishing a virtuous circle of data informed continuous public service improvement.
Progress to date
The excitement and benefits that mobile devices ‘anywhere anytime’ can bring has to be balanced with the reality of a digital skills gap in Scotland and the availability of robust, good-quality underpinning communications. Yet progress is being made – both with the implementation of core infrastructure and with digital inclusion for Scottish citizens. There is an ambition, outlined in the Scottish Government’s Digital Strategy, to ensure that every premise in Scotland can access faster broadband speeds (at least 30 megabits per second) by 2021 and over 700,000 homes and businesses across Scotland now have access to superfast broadband. The digital margins are also shrinking, with the gap in internet usage between the most and least deprived areas of Scotland falling. 82% of adults use the internet for personal use, 81% have basic digital literacy and almost 75% of adults over 75 now use the internet.
The way forward
The skills gap is also being addressed, with many Government-sponsored and other digital initiatives in Scotland changing people’s lives – helping them communicate with friends and family, shop, send email, apply for jobs and gain help with government platforms online. However, we must think outside the box, and with pace, for the benefit of people to whom basic communications infrastructure is still not available. Today there are numerous ways, including more widespread use of wireless, satellite and microwave technologies, which intelligently overcome communications blackspots and bypass the need to dig up roads over extended periods of time in an attempt to lay fibres. There are faster, more economic, more resilient options to underpin the communications infrastructure and digital journey for the rurally isolated in Scotland.
Digital Vision for Scotland
This article is part of the Atos Digital Vision for Scotland opinion paper. We explore the key opportunities and challenges for Scottish Government, organisations and citizens in the digital age, as new technologies bring huge potential to enhance people’s lives and transform organisations.