Digital Scotland: Hype or Reality

Sometimes it can be useful to talk things up. A feel-good factor can help to motivate, persuading others to follow a similar path to reach an agreed goal.

Talking things up too much, however, can lead to hubris - an exaggerated feeling of self-importance, a position of dangerous overconfidence totally divorced from reality.

In terms of Digital Scotland, it really is time to distinguish between hype and reality.

Over the last week or so, we have been exposed to a series of headlines which would appear to indicate that we do indeed live in a world class digital nation. Apparently, the North East is pushing to become a global digital leader; we are on the verge of building an IoT nation for all; our digital sector is ready to take on the world by going global; Scotland is leading the way in narrowing the digital divide; and Glasgow is set to become tech’s ‘living lab’.

Hype or reality?

Digital Glasgow Roadmap 2014

As always, it is useful to take a step back before looking forward.

In January 2014, I was invited to deliver the keynote address at the launch of ‘Digital Glasgow’ – a high profile strategy to establish Glasgow as a world leading digital city by 2017. The launch coincided with the city being awarded £24m of funding from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to develop its Future City demonstrator project.

The Foreword to the Digital Glasgow Roadmap document read as follows:

“Glasgow is on a journey - it is an ambitious city with a proud history of embracing challenge, delivering change and capitalising on opportunities. Glasgow continues to demonstrate strong leadership in charting a way towards new growth, economic recovery, and providing opportunities for all its citizens.

The Digital Glasgow roadmap is about helping the city to achieve its key outcomes, economic growth, becoming a world class city, a sustainable city, a learning city, and a city which looks after its vulnerable people. It is about ensuring we have a world class digital infrastructure in place but also supporting the development of services in the city which maximise the benefits of these investments.

Effective use of digital services by citizens, businesses and the 3rd sector has the potential to transform the way the city works: boost productivity, drive economic growth, provide jobs, connect individuals and revitalise the way services are delivered. We must build a shift in mind set, putting citizens at the heart of how we design and deliver public services.

Glasgow will be a world leading digital city by 2017 securing and growing the competitive advantage of the city and providing opportunities for residents and businesses to embrace the benefits of the digital age.”

As we move towards the end of 2017, it is a legitimate question to ask whether this ‘will be’ objective has been achieved, and if not, why not?

KPIs are for measurement not spin

Fortunately, the document listed a series of goals, objectives and clearly defined KPIs under six main workstreams - Broadband Infrastructure; Urban Wireless; Digital Participation; Digital Public Services; Training, Skills and Employment; Digital Business (SMEs/eCommerce).

In the interests of transparency, I have listed below the stated objectives and agreed KPIs under each major workstream.

All we need now is someone from the Digital Glasgow Board and/or stakeholder groups to produce evidence showing whether these lofty ambitions have been taken forward as promised, “making a real difference to the city.”

Hype or reality?

Broadband Infrastructure

“Glasgow’s broadband infrastructure is an enabler for growth across all economic sectors and increasingly relevant to inward investment decisions. The aim is to ensure the city has a globally competitive and modern communications infrastructure by 2017”

To monitor progress we will compare the following measures on an annual basis as part of programme monitoring of this roadmap:

  • % of premises with access to superfast broadband.
  • % of premises receiving a service < 2Mbit/s.
  • Average downlink speed of a broadband connection.
  • Comparison to UK Capital and Core Cities.

Urban Wireless

“Glasgow will have world class wireless capabilities and a free wifi service across the city supporting digital participation, providing a platform for new approaches to delivering services, helping promote the city and attract investment.”

To monitor progress we will compare the following measures on an annual basis as part of programme monitoring of this roadmap:

  • % of city with coverage from a free ’wifi’ service.
  • % of properties within 500m of a free ‘wifi’ service.
  • Service usage measures - unique visitors/ sessions.
  • % availability of service.

Digital Participation

“All citizens of Glasgow will be confident to choose how, when and where they can go online and be supported as they need it. They will be able to safely communicate, browse and transact online. They will be able to participate as citizens online and influence decisions in their communities as part of a world class digital city.”

To monitor progress we will compare the following measures on an annual basis as part of programme monitoring of this roadmap:

  • % of residents accessing the internet, both at home and on the move.
  • % of residents transacting online.
  • % of residents accessing public services.
  • Increase in no’s registered for formal learning courses.
  • Track the no. of Glasgow partners who sign up to the Digital Participation Charter.
  • Track the no. of digital access points.

Digital Public Services

“Glasgow citizens will be able to access more services through digital channels. We aim to provide a wider range of improved online services, giving our customers more choice in how they engage, interact, source information and transact with us.”

To monitor progress we will compare the following measures on an annual basis as part of programme monitoring of this roadmap:

  • Number of available and improved online services.
  • Customer use of online.
  • % of citizens who engage with council through web/mobile channel.

Training, Skills and Employment

“Glasgow citizens will have the digital skills to not only consume services but to be the producers of new goods and services, harnessing the potential of digital technologies to drive growth, stimulate innovation and improve productivity.”

To monitor progress we will compare the following measures on an annual basis as part of programme monitoring of this roadmap:

  • % increase in number of IT graduates.
  • Greater online presence of SMEs.
  • % increase in the number of digital commonwealth apprenticeship places.
  • % increase in under represented groups in IT particularly women.

Digital Business (SMEs/eCommerce)

“Glasgow businesses will be able to compete with the best nationally and internationally through the use of digital tools, technologies and ecommerce. They will have access to integrated business support and advice which helps them each step of the way in developing their effective use of digital technologies to increase their competitiveness. Glasgow will also have a thriving digital sector.”

To monitor progress we will compare the following measures on an annual basis as part of programme monitoring of this roadmap:

  • Increase the number of SMEs trading online to 60%.
  • Increase the GVA in Glasgow from ecommerce by 15%.
  • Increase new jobs by participation in ecommerce by 2,800.
  • Increase the number of digitally sophisticated Glasgow companies by 20%.
  • Grow Glasgow’s Digital sector.
  • Increase in the number of digital SMEs procuring with Glasgow City Council.

By 2017, has Glasgow become a world leading digital city?

As always, comment and feedback are very welcome.

Ps while preparing this article I received an e-mail invite from Glasgow City Council to attend the 20th State of the City Economy Conference taking place on 24th November. More hubris or a reality check?

Jim H

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