Government should take lead

Digital leader needed to improve Scotland’s output

Ross MartinA Scottish digital officer should be appointed by government to encourage more companies and public bodies to adopt the latest technologies, says a new report.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has been critical of the slow speed of digitalisation in Scotland’s public sector, while a survey of Scottish businesses has found more than two-thirds are classed as “basic browsers or tentative techies”.

The Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), ScotlandIS, The Royal Society of Edinburgh and BT Scotland have now published a report calling on the government to take the lead by hiring a chief digital officer.

Digital Solutions to the Productivity Puzzle says the Scottish Government and all sectors need to focus on exploiting the digital infrastructure in Scotland to achieve higher economic growth and public service improvements over the next five years.

The recommendations follow research commissioned from the economist John McLaren and discussions by senior representatives of the industry and the public and private sectors in Scotland at a Digital and Productivity Forum.

The research has identified IT as a key driver of productivity, but most companies and public sector agencies are failing to keep up with digitalisation.

It has been estimated that if Scotland became a digital world leader GDP would increase £13 billion by 2030, compared to £4bn with only incremental improvements.

The report highlights evidence that countries in which digital is contributing most to productivity growth, such as the US, combine IT investment with new management structures and high skill levels, and that organisational redesigns will be required for Scotland to catch-up with them and realise the full potential from digital investments.

PwC reported last month that more of the world’s leading companies are appointing dedicated digital leaders with responsibility to transform them into a fully digital enterprise, but most are not embracing the Chief Digital Officer role quickly enough.

Ross Martin (pictured), SCDI chief executive, said: “Poor productivity performance compared to our pre-financial crash record and to many other economies has bedevilled the Scottish economy in recent years, holding back growth and prosperity.

“Substantial leaps in productivity are difficult for a developed economy to make, so it will be key to seize this opportunity to work smarter, innovate and internationalise by transforming Scotland into a fully digital nation.

“This report proposes how the Scottish Government and all sectors can bring the same focus to realising the potential economic growth and public service improvements of digitalisation in the next five years as there is on digital infrastructure.

“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.”

Mark Dames, head of policy & public affairs for BT Scotland, added:We are now at a critical point in the development of Scotland as a digital nation. Access to high-speed internet has greatly increased in recent years thanks to commercial and publicly funded investment in fibre broadband. However, the success of exploiting digital technologies will be a decisive factor in whether Scotland achieves its economic growth objectives.”

* The participants in the Digital & Productivity Forum were from the following organisations: Bank of Scotland; BT Scotland; CGI; City of Edinburgh Council; CodeBase; Comhairle nan Eilean Siar; FSB Scotland; Grayling Public Affairs; Heriot Watt University; Interface; KTN UK; National Library of Scotland; NHS Health Scotland; Ofcom; Oracle Scotland; Royal Society of Edinburgh; Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society; SCDI; ScotlandIS; Scottish Cities Alliance; Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service; Scottish Enterprise; Scottish Environment Protection Agency; Scottish Government; Scottish Social Services Council; Skills Development Scotland; Smarter Grid Solutions; Virgin Media; and VisitScotland.

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