More leadership needed to achieve Scotland’s digital ambitions

The Scottish Government needs to show greater strategic leadership across the public sector to achieve its digital ambitions, says the spending watchdog.

Audit Scotland said there has been some good early progress towards putting digital at the heart of everything government does.

Guidance has been introduced to ensure new services are designed around the needs of citizens. And initiatives like Civtech have made it easier for public bodies to develop innovative products in partnership with UK tech companies, the watchdog said.

But the report said the Scottish Government does not yet know how much investment is needed to achieve the ambitious aims it set out in its digital strategy in 2017. It also lacks a complete picture of which actions have had the most impact to date - and where the gaps are. This makes it difficult to prioritise what to work on.

A new government assurance framework is helping individual projects reduce the risks historically associated with public sector IT projects. But a digital skills shortage in Scotland and across the government has meant there has not been enough staff to share common lessons learned. This remains a barrier to progress, Audit Scotland said.

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. 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.”

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