Covid-19 has accelerated the use of digital technology in councils

Digital progress in local government report cover

Responding to Covid-19 has increased the pace at which Scotland's 32 councils are delivering services through digital technology. Greater collaboration, use of shared expertise, citizen engagement and strategic planning are needed, however, to fully realise the potential of digital technology.

A report from the Accounts Commission says councils are at different stages of digital transformation. The long-term focus should now be on how digital technology can provide better opportunities and services for people across Scotland, with citizens placed at the heart of this process.

Councils have responded to Covid-19 by using technology to ensure many essential council services continue and supported thousands of council staff to work from home. But further progress may be restricted due to a lack of staff with the right skills and insufficient workforce planning. Careful planning is needed to ensure the expansion of digital services does not widen existing inequalities.

The Commission is clear that the current work of the Scottish Government and COSLA to refresh the national digital strategy provides an opportunity to drive digital transformation across all Scotland’s 32 councils. Strong leadership and co-ordination at a national level is essential, to provide a consistent vision and clear direction.

Andrew Cowie, member of the Accounts Commission said:

Now is the time for clear and decisive strategic planning with the refresh of Scotland’s national digital strategy. It is an opportunity that has to be seized to ensure there is a vision for digital transformation across all councils, with shared priorities, skills and knowledge.

Councils have worked hard to increase the pace at which digital technology has been introduced due to Covid-19, enabling many vital services to continue. Now all councils must focus on putting all citizens at the heart of digital service design, empowering communities to thrive, not just survive.