Scotland’s renewed focus on using AI and automation is starting to transform public services - and the lives of everyone involved with them

Te new mantra: do more with data


Accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and the desire for more effective public services, AI and automation is at an important juncture in national and lo- cal government. Responses to digitisation have been varied, but Scotland – which has built a reputation for innovation and modernisation over the years – has been at the vanguard. Take the proposed ‘centre of ex-

cellence for process automation’, which is part of a new national plan to transform the way the public sector uses its data. Driven by an ambition to make public services ever more efficient, details of the fledgling govern- ment unit have been trailed in a consultation exercise to update the national digital strategy. When it gets the expected go-ahead, the new centre will

capture an appetite to free up capacity for frontline working, which has been put into sharp focus during the coronavirus crisis, by reducing the need for staff to undertake ‘repetitive and administrative tasks’. Back-office form filling and manual data entry from one system to another will hopefully become a thing of the past as the Scottish Govern- ment emboldens the public sector estate to do more with its data. For Doug Brown, head of data

and AI guild as well as chief data scientist at Capita, the move could not have come at a more critical time as Scotland also lays down a national vision for AI. “Data has real value, and it’s clear that policy-makers in Scotland have grasped that,” he says. “In a Co- vid-19 context, the shift towards data has been highlighted by the way in which it has been shown to have such a pivotal role in

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AI will not only revolutionise the way we work, it will help public sector bodies make wholesale improvements to their products and services,’ says Capita’s Doug Brown

influencing so many important policy decisions. Tat journey was already happening to a large extent, but the pandemic has really accelerated the process. We are also witnessing a growing appetite for data-sharing between government agencies, which can improve decision-making and de- liver the ‘actionable insights’ that can really drive service improve- ment and transform lives.” To get to the point where organ-

isations are ready to start using their data in more innovative ways – where they can deploy AI or automation techniques – the first step in the process is to rationalise the data estate, as Capita has been doing with Police Scotland. Brown says: “Working with

Police Scotland, the second larg- est force in the UK and covering the largest geographical territory, Capita is applying its expertise to collaboratively design the force’s

data migration strategy, which could bring together data from over 40 legacy systems into a single solution. Tis move will put the right data at the fingertips of more than 20,000 operational police officers and staff, ulti- mately enabling Police Scotland to better fight crime at a national, as well as granular, level.”

According to Gartner – the global research company – one of the data-driven innovations that has seen a lot of market move- ment both before and since the pandemic, has been the field of robotic process automation (RPA). Its research has shown that chief information officers regard RPA as a tool that can help them de- liver quick wins for government institutions committed to long- term digital strategies. Its report, Digital Government in Action: Augmentation Using Robotic

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