Scottish Government ‘not informed about own digital progress’

21 Jun 19

The Scottish Government has been warned that it must show greater strategic leadership across the public sector if it is to achieve its digital ambitions.

A new report from the Auditor General found ministers did not know how much was currently being invested in achieving the government’s digital strategy, nor how much was still required to deliver the strategy across the public sector.

The strategy, which was updated two years ago, aims to put digital at the heart of everything government does, designing services around citizens, developing digital skills, and encouraging innovation and collaboration across sectors to boost productivity and economic growth.

But, although there had been “good early progress” towards the objectives of the strategy, the government did not fully understand the impact of work already undertaken, and where gaps existed, making it difficult to prioritise future work, the report said.

“The Scottish Government does not have a complete picture of what has been achieved across the public sector so far, including which actions have had the most impact and where there are gaps in progress,” it said.

“And it 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 on public services and learn from experience.”

The shortage of digital skills remained a barrier to progress, it added, with the government hampered by the civil service pay structure from offering salaries that could compete with those offered in the commercial sector.

Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General for Scotland, said: "The Scottish Government is in a unique position to show digital leadership by bringing people together and sharing lessons learned across Scotland's public sector.

“Governments across the world are facing the same challenge, and bringing about collaboration will not be easy,” she said.

“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.”

Digital economy minister Kate Forbes said she was pleased to see recognition of early progress made by the Scottish Government to achieve its digital ambitions but realised there was more work to be done.

“Our Digital Strategy for Scotland is ambitious, and it sets out actions for Scotland to become a leading digital country,” she said.

“This ambition is matched by collective, coordinated actions that have already delivered good progress.

“We do, however, recognise that we will only achieve more through continued collaborative working across the public, private and third sectors.”

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