Scotland’s digital transformation

Head of Digital Public Services Strategy and Policy for the Scottish Government Julie Kane speaks to eolas about the Scottish Government’s digital transformation strategy, its interaction with the National Performance Framework and how it has been designed with inclusivity to the fore.

Entitled Realising Scotland’s full potential in a digital world: a digital strategy for Scotland, the Scottish Government’s digital transformation plan was unveiled in March 2017 with four key goals: delivering inclusive economic growth; reforming public services; tackling inequalities in poorer communities; and preparing children and the current workforce for the workplace of the future.

“It’s not just about government, we see the interaction between economic growth and our public services as key because public services have so much to offer in terms of growing our economy,” Kane says. “There are about 140 actions in the strategy that cover everything from connectivity to economy and digital government to participation.

“A big thing is our interaction with digital technology industries and how innovation is really a thread right through everything we do. It’s about how we make sure our education and training facilities are fit for purpose for the future. We’re trying to grow those skills and capabilities in house, we’ve done quite a bit of work on that and we now have a Digital Data and Technology Framework which makes sure that everybody has a profession within that framework. They now work in a profession-based approach rather than a project-based approach so we can draw on our professions to support our agenda.”

Such agendas could never have been supported had the Scottish Government not been imbued with the power to enact such initiatives by devolution. “Devolution gives us responsibility for education, health and environment and increasingly taxation and social security, which gives us opportunities because the more we take control of these things the more we can develop them from scratch,” Kane explains.

One of those returns has been investment from the Government in the CivTech programme, where the Government has contracted entrepreneurs and small businesses to “bring them together with the public sector to take on our [digital] problems”. The programme in its first phase created 27 new jobs and over £800,000 contracts for the companies involved according to Kane. “By linking public services and the economy, we have a real opportunity and our new powers allow us to refocus and redesign services,” she says.

“We’re on a mission to have citizens contribute to the design of the Scottish Government they need and use. The Scottish approach to service design is not a Scottish Government initiative, but a whole of Scotland initiative, ensuring that communities can engage with the way our country works,” she continues. The way Scotland works as a country has been overhauled since powers were devolved to Holyrood, especially since the Christie commission report and the publication of the ambitious and overarching National Performance Framework (NPF), which aims to “reduce inequalities and gives equal importance to economic, environmental and social progress”.

“Everything is underpinned by the NPF, it’s a framework about how we measure the well-being of the nation, not a series of targets.,” Kane says. “Digital has a big contribution to play in that. Design is about services that are interactions between people and so we need to understand what people’s motivations and behaviours and we need to get them involved in these decisions. By continually testing ideas, we’re reducing risks and always getting feedback, so we know we’re solving problems in the right way.”

This approach naturally opens out to collaboration, but a kind of collaboration that is less discussed than the form of public-private partnerships seen in programmes like CivTech. “It’s important that we ensure we are collaborative in the public sector, because as we all know public services aren’t delivered by one organisation,” Kane elaborates. “I think if we truly listen to people and hear the things we don’t want to hear, that’s really important because you’ll often find that people are doing very inefficient processes very efficiently. What we sometimes do is meet the needs of the service and not the individual and the organisation is blindly delivering this service without knowing what it means to the customer. What we’d like to do is structure a service where we meet the needs together.

“Service design is everyone’s business and it belongs right through the chain of practitioners we work with in digital. It’s about empowering the people of Scotland to participate in the design of their public services. We have a panel of 2,000 people who are actively involved in the design of our social security agency. These are all people who have experiences of benefits, all of them have lived it.”

Another example of such work is Disclosure Scotland, the organisation that perform the country’s equivalent of Garda vetting, whose initiative allowed them to have bottom up perspective on what their data was telling them. “They started doing a very large discovery project to gather lots of data from users about their experience of the current process of applying,” Kane explains.

“They got end users, organisations who help people apply, organisations who require disclosure for employment, call centre and organisation staff and brought them together for what they called a sense making session. By doing that they came up with different ideas of what the data looked like and were then able to see that they had a real direction in terms of what the redesign looked like, which was very different from what they initially thought it would look like.

“Any redesign needs to be inclusive,” Kane says. “People have very different needs, so the first thing we do is create what we call an inclusion checklist. What we established was that similar services could underpin each of the benefits and technology was required to support that process. We have separate systems for each of our benefits for example, and sometimes the information doesn’t link up. Sometimes starting from scratch is a real basis for developing better services.”

Using 2018’s Year of the Young People initiative, the Scottish Government started the implementation of their digital framework with the country’s youth, funding the Young Scot organisation to monitor progress in the context of the 5Rights Youth Commission, which includes the right to digital literacy, and “to know exactly where we embed all of this in our ethical framework”.

“That overarching guide of principles underpins the design and delivery of digital technologies as well as a code of rights and responsibilities shared across multiple sectors to influence behaviour and instil public confidence,” Kane says. “What is key to our success is having a clear strategy and policy, having the citizen at the heart of what we do and having multi-disciplinary teams. For us, it’s about societal change, not organisational change.

“What we need to focus on is that it’s not about a panacea, it’s about giving people what they need. What we need is a mixed economy of skills working together with public and private sectors. Our digital transformation works with different disciplines coming together to design and deliver transformation in an agile way. Gone are the days when everything has the waterfall approach to it. As public servants, we don’t pick and choose our customers, and I think that’s an important point,” she concludes.

Barry Doyle

Since graduating with an MSc in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in 1994 Barry has worked as a GIS / IT professional and business consultant in various roles in both the public and private sector in Ireland. With over 13 years’ experience working as a Project Leader in the Irish Local Government Sector Barry has been responsible for leading and delivering various innovative projects at both a Local Authority and Sectoral level with a particular focus on Digital Transformation, Geographical Information Systems, Information Management and Open Data.

Prior to joining Galway County Council in November 2018 Barry championed, defined and led the Digital Transformation Programme in Roscommon Country Council with the overall aim of embracing opportunities presented by ongoing advances in the digital technologies, broadband availability and capacity, and Cloud based enterprise solutions to transform how the Council provides services to, and interacts with, the citizens it serves. In line with this Barry completed a Special Certificate in Designing Innovative Services with Cork Institute of Technology in 2018.


Gemma Garvan

Gemma Garvan is Director of Informatics at St James’s Hospital in Dublin which last year became the first digital acute hospital in Ireland, which is the start of a landmark change for how care is delivered.  Gemma is an experienced Health Informatics Leader with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital and health care industry.  Prior to taking up her role at St James’s Hospital in 2018 she was Head of Access to Information at Healthlink. Gemma began work as an analyst programmer with The National Healthlink Project and moved into a project management role over a decade ago. Gemma has a BSc in computer science and software engineering and an MA from Trinity College in Dublin.

Barry Lowry

Barry Lowry is CIO for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, a position he was appointed to in 2016. He is tasked with delivering the Public Service ICT Strategy. Prior to 2016, he spent almost 35 years in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) on work ranging from the programming of mainframe computers to operating as a team leader in the design of client server systems. For the five years prior to his appointment, Lowry was the director who oversaw the establishment of ICT shared services in NICS. He also operated as the Head of Profession for ICT. In 2011 he was voted the Northern Ireland IT Professional of the Year by his associates.

Kieran O’Hea

A native of Cork, Kieran O’Hea is Leicester City Council’s Head of Smart Cities, where he is leading the implementation of a Smart City Strategy that is city-needs led and demand-driven. He was formerly Chief Digital Officer of Brisbane, where he led the development of the city’s digital economy strategy. Before focusing on city strategies, Kieran led the development of digital strategies for a number of government agencies in Dublin. He has also worked for the European Commission, developing funding programmes in the area of digital content.

Donal Spellman

Donal Spellman is Principal Officer, Digital Services Channel at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. He joined the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in 2010 working initially in employment support policy and then as a Divisional Manger before moving to the Digital Service Division in 2016. Donal has a keen interest in service design & building online services around customer need.  Experience in other Departments including the Department of Finance, Agriculture and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General concentrated around policy formation and public policy and expenditure evaluation.

Tim Willoughby

Tim Willoughby is Head of Digital Services and Innovation at An Garda Síochána. He was formerly CTO of the LGMA, with over 20 years in a number of Senior Management and Technical Roles in the Local Government Sector. He has been working in the Public service for almost 28 years. Tim has a Civil Engineering Degree from TCD and a Masters in Innovation from the University of Ulster.

Moyagh Murdock

Moyagh Murdock has been in the transport sector for over 20 years in various capacities. Currently, Moyagh is the Chief Executive Officer at the Road Safety Authority. In her early career she spent 10 years in the airline industry having worked at Bombardier in Belfast as an aircraft systems engineer. She was then Chief Operating Officer for Bus Éireann having joined the Company in 2007 as the Deputy Chief Mechanical Engineer with responsibility for the fleet maintenance and garage operations. In 2012 she was awarded an MBA from Dublin City University (DCU) and holds a Certificate of Professional Competence in Road Transport Operations Management.

Caron Alexander

Caron Alexander is Director of Digital Shared Services at the Northern Ireland Civil Service.  She has more than 30 years of experience in the UK public sector.  Caron is responsible for providing ICT shared services to 27,000 staff, for the NI citizen portal and contact centre services, delivering the NI Digital Transformation Programme and driving forward the NI Open Data agenda.  Previously Caron held a number of senior technical, programme and change management roles in the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

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Michael Redmond

Michael Redmond is Chief Operating Officer at the Office of the CIO/eHealthIreland. A highly experienced leader within eHealth and Digital, Michael has a reputation for delivering results, driving excellence and building capability in each and every one of his career roles to date. Hugely experienced across the public sector, he is known to be acutely customer focussed; his strategy of simplifying the digital agenda resonates with the C-suite, staff and the general public alike. As COO, Michael manages the largest ICT investment budget in the whole public sector. Also a qualified and certified CIO, Michael studied Computer Science at Trinity College Dublin.

Stella Power

In 2008, Stella founded Annertech, Ireland’s leading open-source digital agency. Since its inception, Annertech have grown to become the "go to" Drupal experts in Ireland and work with a variety of clients in both the private and public sectors. Stella is an active contributor to the Drupal open-source content management system, and maintains many modules including Commerce Realex, Commerce Donate and Code Review. She is a member of the international Drupal Security Team, and was recently chairperson of the Drupal Ireland Association.

Dominic Byrne

Dominic Byrne is Head of Information Technology with Fingal County Council and has 26 years’ experience working in IT.  He holds a Degree in Information Technology and a Masters in Internet Systems.  He is responsible for managing the provision of IT services in Fingal County Council and his current interests include Digital Government, Smart Cities and Civic Tech.  He is a member of the Smart Dublin Executive Committee and the Public Bodies Working Group on Open Data.

Bill McCluggage

Bill McCluggage is Managing Director of Laganview Associates Ltd. He became the first CIO for the Irish Government in 2013 and was CIO for the Northern Ireland Civil Service (2005 – 2009). He joined the Cabinet Office in 2009 as deputy UK Government CIO. While in the Cabinet Office he was the Executive Director responsible for the UK Government’s ICT Strategy and was instrumental in the development of the Government G-Cloud, and was SRO for the Identity Assurance Programme, now GOV.UK Verify.

Charlie Weijer

Charlie Weijer is Area Vice President for DocuSign.  He is an experienced business leader, with proven sales and business development abilities. He has developed and executed growth strategies across EMEA in multiple high-tech organisations. He specialises in Sales, Sales operations, pipeline development and management. DocuSign is a hyper growth “startup” of over 300 people, Charlie has been responsible for scaling and leading the EMEA continental sales teams since 2015. He combines strong interpersonal, communication and negotiating skills, with a highly analytical mind. He completed an Executive MBA in 2013 at Smurfit School of Business to complete his academic profile and further complement relevant business experience. Charlie is passionate about coaching people.

Jane Carolan

Jane Carolan is National Director for Health Business Services at the Health Service Executive.  Jane is particularly focused on maximising digital business transformation within the health sector. She was instrumental in driving forward the national Electronic Health Record for Ireland. She is a member of the HSE Leadership Team and previously held the positions of Head of Planning and Corporate Performance and also Interim CIO of the Office of the CIO for six months.  Jane has over 20 years of experience in senior management roles within the health system. Jane has recently won two awards; IT Professional of the Year 2018 and was recognised as one of the CIO 100, 2019.

Dr Finn de Brí

Dr Finn de Bri is Chief Information Officer for the Houses of the Oireachtas, with responsibility for the Oireachtas Digital Transformation, which is a multi-annual transformation, incorporating 7 programmes of development and over 100 projects. Prior to this he was head of Taxes and Customs software application development in the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. He holds a PhD in Information Systems from Trinity College Dublin.

Dr. Aileen McHugh

Dr. Aileen McHugh is Head of Operations at the Property Registration Authority (PRA) with a broad brief which includes overall responsibility for functions including HR, Finance, ICT, Corporate Services, Casework and Customer Service, Spatial Data and Mapping, Quality, Governance and Compliance. Since 2011 Aileen has gained expertise in embedding strategic workforce planning in the PRA.  PRA teams have been shortlisted and won several national awards for spatial data collaboration, diversity and inclusion initiatives, workforce planning, and most recently for the PRA’s innovative Property Alert Service.  The PRA is custodian of publicly valuable data assets and with the  rapidly changing global data landscape  Aileen’s interest has been focused most recently on issues relating to  emerging technologies and Data Governance, privacy and public registers.  Aileen holds a primary degree in Public Administration, a Masters in the Management of Change and a Doctorate in Business Administration. 

Cormac Murphy

Cormac has been involved with helping organizations transform digitally for over 10 years with experience at market-leading cloud organisations including Sage and He has developed a strong understanding of change across a wide range of industries, regions and viewpoints.

Currently responsible for Major accounts at DocuSign, Cormac leads the development of the Agreement Cloud community in Ireland. He holds a B.A. in Applied Languages from Technological University Dublin and speaks French and Spanish.

K Ananth Krishnan

As the Chief Technology Officer, Ananth directs Research, Innovation and Co-Innovation in TCS.  Under his leadership, TCS has created significant IP with business impact.  He has architected an industry-leading agile delivery model and has scaled innovation deep into business units.  He travels extensively to share his perspective on emerging digital trends with senior client teams in the public and private sector.  He also supports clients to implement the appropriate response to the threats and opportunities which these trends present. Ananth has been a member of the TCS Corporate Leadership team since 1999 and has led many strategic initiatives.  He has served on various Governing Councils of Academia, Industry Advisory Boards, and Government and Alumni committees.  He has previously been listed in Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT Leaders and in Infoworld’s Top 25 CTOs.

Damian Griffin

Damian is the Chief Technical Officer at the Defence Forces. Commandant Damian Griffin has successfully translated technology to the Defence Forces for over 20 years. Never one to accept the status quo, Damian is continually motivated to ensure the Defence Forces progress secure technology solutions in the right areas and for the right reasons. His current areas of focus are the umbrella of technologies required to deliver Digital Transformation with a close alignment to design thinking methodologies.