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Scotland needs a chief digital officer, says SCDI

The Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and BT Scotland have called on the government to create a new role to drive digital transformation

Scotland needs a chief digital officer (CDO) to progress the country’s digital initiatives, says a report by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), in collaboration with BT Scotland and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The report, Digital solutions to the productivity puzzle, sets out recommendations that it believes will help drive business transformation in Scotland.

The recommendations include making digital “integral to overall strategy and delivery” across the public sector and mandating the Scottish government’s Digital Transformation Service to work with all public bodies, not just central government.

This is a long-standing debate in England, where local councils are left without help to digitally transform their services because the Government Digital Service does not cover local government.

The report also calls on the Scottish government to create a CDO for Scotland “to progress Digital Scotland development from inftrastructure to economic growth and public services”. Similarly, all public bodies should appoint a CDO, the report said.

It argues that if Scotland becomes a “digital world leader”, the country’s GDP would increase to £13bn by 2030, compared to £4bn if only incremental improvements are made.

Ross Martin, chief executive of the SCDI, said Scotland’s poor productivity has “bedevilled the Scottish economy” and that the government needs to “seize this opportunity to work smarter, innovate and internationalise” by becoming a digital nation.

“We recommend the appointment of the first chief digital officer for Scotland to provide leadership, advice and challenge at the most senior levels of government on the frontier of technological progress and similar appointments across the public and private sectors,” said Martin.

“There is a range of positive work in progress on digitalisation and some great examples of businesses using digital technologies to better meet the needs of their customers. However, with economic headwinds strengthening, becoming a digital world-leader is essential if Scotland is to transition from a fragile to an agile economy.”  

Minimum broadband speed

The report says everyone in Scotland should have access to a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbit/s and 4G mobile coverage, followed by ultrafast broadband at 500Mbit/s and 5G roll-out by 2025.

The Scottish government’s £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme is already working to implement fibre broadband across 750,000 premises, and is on track to meet the national target of 95% of properties by December 2017.

Other recommendations include implementing digital skills in teacher training and addressing the shortage of computer science teachers, and asking government to develop a long-term framework “allays public concerns about data-sharing and encourage an open, joined-up and industry-friendly approach by public bodies”. 

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