Realising Scotland's full potential in a digital world - a digital strategy for Scotland: progress report 2017 to 2021

30 Jul 2021 10:30 AM

This report summarises the progress made against the actions outlined in the 2017 Digital Strategy for Scotland.

Realising Scotland’s full potential in a digital world: a digital strategy for Scotland Progress Report 2017 – 2021 13 page PDF 204.4 kB

Progress Report 2017 – 2021

The Digital Strategy for Scotland was updated in 2017. Significant progress has since been made with delivering the actions described in that strategy, contributing to the decision to produce a further update in March 2021. The report summarises this progress.


The strategy set out a vision of a country which stimulates innovation, welcomes investment and supports digital technologies industries; and supports the development of internationally competitive, digitally mature businesses across all sectors of our economy.

In 2017, we launched a new Digital Growth Fund to address the undersupply of digital skills. The success of this fund led to the launch of the Digital Development Loan which provides interest free loans of up to £100,000 to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to invest in their digital capabilities.

The strategy included a commitment to extend the DigitalBoost programme to give advice and support to improve the level of digital maturity amongst businesses in every part of Scotland. Funding to support this programme has been provided every year since 2017 and to date, over 15,000 Small and Medium Enterprises have received specialist digital support. In August 2020, funding for this programme was doubled and in January 2021, £20 million was invested into the DigitalBoost Grant to provide grants to over 2,200 SMEs to invest in their digital technologies and skills.

We set out to create the conditions in which our digital technologies industries can thrive, and work with the industry to meet a shared objective to employ 150,000 in digital technology roles over the next five years. To do so, we have committed over £12.5 million in funding to deliver the Digital Skills Investment plan, which seeks to tackle both the immediate digital skills shortage and to boost the number of skilled individuals available in the workplace and in the hiring pipeline.

The Logan Review was commissioned to review the tech ecosystem. We accepted the recommendations presented by the Review and subsequently announced an initial £7 million in tech scalers and £1 million in a tech ecosystem fund.

Data and Innovation

The strategy set out a vision of a country which shares and opens-up non-personal data as a source of innovation and efficiency.

In 2017 we made a number of commitments to increase public trust in public services to hold their data securely and use it in appropriate ways, including sharing and opening up non-personal data as a source of innovation and efficiency. At the time of publishing, much of this work was still at an early stage and considerable progress has been made since then.

We developed as the main source of official statistics datasets – over 250 datasets from a range of producers – that can be used to drive innovative solutions in the private and public sectors. We also included a number of activities around opening up data as part of Scotland's Open Government Action Plan (2018-2020) and a full progress report can be found at the following link.

We established the Administrative Data Research Partnership Scotland (ADR-S) as part of a UK wide data sharing and linkage programme which ensures public data is accessed by researchers in a safe and secure environment so that high quality research can be delivered and inform policy decisions and interventions that improves people's lives. This has been instrumental in supporting the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

We have improved arrangements to support secure, legal and ethical data sharing where it is for public benefit via the creation of Research Data Scotland, a national research data support service facilitating access to data for research in the public good.

We have strengthened our information governance approach to ensure more proportionate and timely access to data for research, as set out in the existing legal frameworks such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which helps us to take a more rigorous approach when considering ethical principles underpinning the use data.

The 2017 strategy sought to strengthen Scotland's geospatial expertise and reputation. The Scottish Government is working with industry leaders, academia and the Association of Geographic Information (AGI) to produce a Scottish Geospatial Roadmap, this will define the vision and future direction for Scotland's geospatial information sector and how we maximise the opportunities offered as part of the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA) in the use of location data. The direction will reflect Scotland's current strategic priorities but also address how we review these priorities going forward, this will enabling the Roadmap to become an agile document aligned to Scotland's Digital and AI strategies but also National Outcomes such as Programme for Government.

In May 2020 Scotland transitioned from the existing One Scotland Mapping Agreement (OSMA) to the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA) with the remit of increasing economic growth and improving social and environmental outcomes by setting policy and data standards, improving accessibility and interoperability of geospatial data while improving capability, skills and resources to support new and existing businesses and improve public services. The transition to the PSGA also offered considerable cost savings to the Scottish Public Sector organisations with an estimated £30 million in savings over the 10 year contract period.

The geospatial network integrator (GNI) or Location Data Scotland project is now operational with a remit to support the development of the geospatial data sector, raise the profile of the capabilities of the sector, identify growth opportunities for companies and make linkages that will enable companies to exploit growth opportunities and establish collaborations that can access future opportunities. The GNI should, therefore, act as a "glue" that joins together public, academic and private sector organisations so that new opportunities, that would otherwise not be achievable, can be pursued, with economic growth as the key outcome. The successful delivery of the GNI role will, therefore, deliver a more cohesive, collaborative and organised sector that is actively engaging with the key customers and developing new business, delivering economic growth.

In response to Scotland Climate Changes commitments, the Scottish Ministers established an inter-agency research project, known as the National Coastal Change Assessment which aims to develop a shared evidence base to determine coastal change across Scotland's soft coastal areas. The use of collaboratively funded remote sensed data has proven invaluable to the Scottish Public Sector organisations in such projects as determining the Mean High Water Springs Tideline and the delivery of more targeted cost-effective public services such as flood risk management. This data also has the ability to be made openly available through the Scottish remote sensed data as open data and can be accessed through the Scottish Remote Sensing Portal.

In the 2017 strategy we made a commitment to work with stakeholders, privacy interests and members of the public to develop a robust, secure and trustworthy mechanism by which an individual member of the public can demonstrate their identity online.

We established the Digital Identity Scotland programme – overseen by a Programme Board with broad stakeholders and interests – and aligned this work to the principles of open government. We have now completed the initial phases of this work (Discovery and Alpha) which has allowed us to develop a proof of concept and outline business case. We are now finalising procurement for a development partner to move to the next (Beta) phase.

In 2017, we had only delivered CivTech (Beta). Since that time, we have developed and expanded the program through four successful iterations. Developments have continued to be innovative and have built upon the lessons learned from previous cycles.

Through the five iterations of CivTech, 188 FTE jobs have been created and there has been £50.3 million in investments. 55 teams have taken part in the Accelerator Stage, and 52 of these have remained operational. This survival rate is far higher than the private sector norm in which 20% of new businesses go under within 12 months, and 60% within three years.

CivTech has also captured attention on the world stage and has been described as a leader in its field. This led to the launch of the CivTech Alliance in April 2020 whose purpose was to develop links and share knowledge and expertise across the growing number of public sector focused innovation initiatives across the world, and to promote CivTech alumni companies in these markets. Membership is growing, with some 20 regions, initiatives and countries engaged.

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