An appeal for more digital leadership

Scotland lacks digital leaders and suffers from “legacy management”, leaving it unprepared for the disruption that digital technology is bringing to business and employment.

Jim Hamill, director of digital and social media consultancy Energise 2.0 and a former Reader in e-Marketing and International Business at Strathclyde University, questioned the Scottish Government’s ambition of Scotland being a world-class digital nation by 2020.

“Where are we on that? Well the answer is nobody knows because there is no research being done to measure the progress,” he told the inaugural Techaus festival in Glasgow.

“There is no vision or strategy at a national, regional level or indeed in most organisations. Only recently has a chief digital officer been appointed for Scotland’s local authorities; why has it taken us so long to make an appointment like that?”

Hamill compared the progress being made by countries such as Dubai and Estonia: “People say Estonia started with a clean sheet, without legacy IT systems, that Dubai has money and also did not have legacy IT. There is an element of truth to that.

“But the main barrier is not legacy IT, it is legacy management thinking. The vast majority of senior executives in this country just don’t get digital, they don’t understand the changes digital is bringing.”

Hamill appealed to the audience to bring their digital skills and ambition to the wider economy as leaders of businesses.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on a refresh of its strategy. Six key themes were outlined as it seeks to add fresh impetus to a digital strategy outlined five years ago.

Connectivity, economy, skills, public services, participation, cyber security and resilience are all part of a call for responses published on the ideas.gov.scot platform.

Responses to the consultation will all be considered as part of a pledge made in the Scottish Parliament to refresh the strategy, which was published in 2011 but is yet to be updated.

The Techaus festival aimed to celebrate innovation and creativity in the Scottish digital sector. It featured workshops and talks from representatives of companies including Spotify, Skyscanner and IBM, themed around creativity, engagement, skills, disruption and vision.

Mark Muir, co-founder of Digital Media Meetups, hopes the festival will eventually rival Tech Open Air in Berlin. “We’ve been running regular Digital Meetups over the last year, bringing together the digital community to learn and share ideas.

“This inspired us to create something on a bigger scale, getting industry leaders on board to help us engage better with young people and the wider digital community.

James Jefferson, chief creative officer and co-founder of Equator, added: “Scotland has always had an enviable reputation for innovation and this has translated seamlessly into the digital space.

“The quality of digital talent is extremely high and it is about time that we had an exciting event to show that off, bringing together forward-thinking individuals and businesses in a dynamic setting.”

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