Scotland among European frontrunners in digital government services

12 January 2021 4 min. read
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With new lockdowns being ushered in across Europe to curb the latest spike in coronavirus infections, digital government services have become even more important. A new study has found that Scotland is among the in the frontrunners in terms of digital services, with more than 70% of respondents having used such platforms to launch and run a business.

The devolved Scottish Government has committed some £442 million of public money to the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) initiative since 2014, something which has led to around 930,000 homes and businesses across Scotland now being able to connect to fibre broadband. Over the course of the programme, 4,500 new fibre street cabinets have been deployed alongside more than 11,000 kilometres of cable, including subsea cable for 20 crossings to Scottish islands.

According to new analysis from Capgemini Invent, Scotland’s work to upgrade the nation’s digital capabilities are already paying dividends. The consultancy’s analysis – commissioned by the Scottish Government – found that Scotland is ahead of the UK and most of Europe when it comes to digital public services – something which has been of major importance amid the continued restrictions on public interaction brought in to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Life events

Fiona Young, Head of Capgemini Invent in Scotland, said, “Well designed and executed digital services should enable citizens and businesses to seamlessly interact with public services, which has also been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Scotland’s position, which is above the EU average, is testimony to the progress made in developing its online government services in line with its digital strategy. Moving forward, a continued focus on social, economic and wellbeing outcomes backed by fiscal measures will help accelerate the transformation and realise its vision of a Digital Scotland.”

In terms of life events, Scottish service users are generally much more likely to turn to digital platforms than their average EU counterparts. According to the study, more Scottish people used digital services when looking for work, starting a business, registering a car, maintaining regular business operations or handling family life. In contrast, slightly more EU respondents used digital services for studying and moving house.’

Scotland scored 67% on the key benchmarks – compared to 54% for the UK as a whole and 59% on average for the EU. While Scotland has positioned itself well to outperform many other countries across Europe, however, it is still a distance behind the Scandinavian region. More work is needed on the “building blocks” of digital government if it is to reach the same level as high-performing Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Overall Average

The Nordic countries particularly stand out in implementing Key Enablers. National eID schemes and unified digital post-boxes took flight in these countries, so that users can easily identify themselves online across all sorts of entities and have all government communication stored online. Recently, for example, research by BearingPoint found that digital passport services in Finland were among the most mature in the world. In contrast, across the UK barely one-fifth of citizens used online services hosted by local and national government on a regular basis prior to Covid-19.

Public Finance Minister Ben Macpherson said, “Scotland is working to become a digital leader in an interconnected world, and the coronavirus pandemic has made clearer than ever the importance of good digital public services. This report confirms that we’re already ahead of the game when it comes to digital public services and I want to make sure we build on that progress… We recognise the researchers’ recommendations for how we can improve further, and we are currently consulting on our draft digital strategy which contains plans to address many of these points. We will continue to work with other European counties to learn from their experiences and share our own.”