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Scotland ‘needs stronger digital leadership’

Despite some good progress, Scotland needs greater strategic direction to further its digital endeavours, says central auditor

Scotland’s public spending watchdog has warned in a report that the country needs stronger leadership if it is to further the digitisation of public services.

According to the report, Enabling digital government, Audit Scotland recognised there was some good process made around digital, but some strategic direction is needed.

Key issues identified in the report include a lack of clarity in terms of investment required to drive the digital strategy published by the Scottish government in 2017, which also lacks a clear picture of money being spent on digital projects across the various departments and bodies.

The country also can’t say which digital initiatives had the most impact and where there are shortcomings to to be addressed, the report said, adding that the Scottish Digital Directorate is also short on staff that can share lessons learned so far.

To deliver its vision for digital government, the report noted that the Scottish government should identify all the main programmes across government and ensure they are reviewed by the equivalent of a chief information officer to ensure quality and consistency.

The strategic leadership role should also be more clearly articulated and supported by the right level of investment, according to the recommendations included in the report.

Read more about Scottish government IT

According to Audit Scotland, central government bodies should also be informed of the Digital Directorate support service so they know what services are available.

“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,” said Caroline Gardner, auditor general for Scotland.

“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,” she said.

Scottish digital minister Kate Forbes recognised that “there is more to be done towards public services digitisation”.

“We do, however, recognise that we will only achieve more through continued collaborative working across the public, private and third sectors,” she said. “We will consider Audit Scotland’s recommendations.”

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