Autonomous vehicles, the internet of things, virtual and augmented reality, big data, artificial intelligence, smart cities applications, 5G, and distributed ledger technology, of which blockchain is one example.
They all have something in common; they shift the focus of digital technology away from the desk environment, to the built environment. Whereas our digital and physical world were previously very separate, they are now increasingly integrated.
For any organisation this is significant. “For local government, it is seismic,” a recent post by the Digital Office for Scottish Local Government noted. The built environment means the towns, cities, villages, and rural areas in which local government provides services.
The technologies are not just buzzwords, they are a profound evolution that enable service providers to achieve better outcomes for people. They can facilitate community empowerment, help re-imagine and redesign the delivery of services, and improve the way local government stakeholders work together.
Early next year, Scotland Excel, in partnership with the Digital Office, is hosting Delivering On Digital. It is intended to be an innovative approach to demonstrating the ‘art of the possible’ through the application of new technologies in a local government context.
The aim is to accelerate the pace of change in areas that can have the most beneficial effect, such as information management, the use of biometrics, and supporting local government employees in the field.
“There is always a need to manage expectations,” said Hugh Carr, Head of Strategic Procurement at Scotland Excel, “but digital transformation is now fundamental to local government because of the advantages it will bring to citizens. It’s not a ‘bolt-on’, but something which is integral to how councils work across all service areas.”
Scotland Excel is the centre of procurement expertise for local government. Established in 2008, itis a leading non-profit shared service funded by Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
Its £1bn contract portfolio supports the delivery of social care, construction, roads, transport,environment, corporate, education and ICT services, and achieves annual savings of around £15m. Contracts are designed to encourage innovation, facilitate policy, support local economies and generate social value for communities.
With the Digital Office acting as a catalyst for change, Scotland Excel provide strategic procurement advice on the digital agenda as it develops in local government.
“It includes areas such as councils moving to the cloud,” added Carr, “making better use of existing collaborative frameworks, innovative routes to market councils can consider, and sharing knowledge among ICT teams in terms of the technologies in use across the 32 councils – to learn and benefit from each other and bridge gaps.”
Collaboration is key to Scotland Excel’s work, a factor illustrated by its work with SEEMiS, another local government shared service, to procure a robust and sustainable ICT solution to replace the country’s education management information system used by every council school in Scotland. The joint team was highly commended for the project in the recent Scottish GO Awards which recognise excellence in procurement.
Scotland Excel is currently working on the migration from analogue to digital systems in telecare and telehealth. “We’re also keen to look further into how the digital agenda can advance and influence other portfolio areas such as fleet and environment,”said Carr.