‘How you deliver on the strategy is what really counts’

Minister promises quarterly reviews of digital strategy BY KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

Scotland’s innovation minister has committed to a quarterly review of a new government digital strategy in order to ensure the vision translates into actions delivered on the ground. Ivan McKee, who has a business

background, said he will meet with officials every four months or more frequently to make sure targets in the revamped national digital strategy are being met. Mr McKee, who has recently

taken up an oversight role for digital within government, said he wants to make sure that con- nectivity and skills gaps targets, in particular, are being met. Mr McKee, who launched the

refreshed digital strategy in part- nership with local government umbrella association COSLA, on 11 March, said: “In the world I’ve come from it’s about reviewing and checking what’s going on in the plans, making sure we’re hitting the numbers and under- standing what you do to make sure you stay on track. “So I’ve very much got a focus

on the execution part of it, as much as writing the strategy is fine, it’s how you deliver on it is what really counts.” Mr McKee mentioned the R100

(Reaching 100%) programme which aims to connect every Scottish household to superfast broadband by 2025-6. Te final contract lot with supplier BT Openreach was recently signed and work is about to get under- way on bringing connectivity to some of the remote parts of northern Scotland and island communities. He also described the aim to

Innovation minister, Ivan McKee Photo: Greg Macvean

more than double tech trained individuals coming through the education system from 4,000 to 10,000 a year as a “concrete measure of success” along with a national programme – Connect- ing Scotland – to bring digital connectivity and data to 55,000 people from disadvantaged back- grounds.

Mr McKee, who before his political career held senior roles in manufacturing and business, managing companies in the UK as well as Poland, Finland, Croatia and Bosnia, also credited former Skyscanner chief operating of- ficer, Mark Logan, with bringing a sharper edge to Scotland’s ability to deliver on aims to become a world-leading digital nation, built on strong ethical and inclusion foundations, and which attracts international investment. He said: “If you look at the

Logan report, it is a really effec- tive and very well-structured approach, in order to create this anti-fragile tech ecosystem in Scotland, an ecosystem that’s strong enough to be able to learn


from its mistakes and to con- tinue to grow and thrive.” He said that the Logan report

coupled with other recent strate- gy launches – including on cyber and AI, and an inward invest- ment plan – is a real opportunity to start bringing together digital initiatives under one “umbrella” that will help Scotland develop its pitch on the international scene. He said that this was already being done by the likes of Scottish Development Inter- national but conceded that “we could always do more” to bring in foreign direct investment. He described Scotland’s

approach to being different to that of Ireland in the late 1990s, which wooed big tech compa- nies like Apple and Google with tax breaks and incentives, to grow the economy “downwards”. He said Scotland’s approach is to come at it from “both direc- tions”, by using world-class universities to help build startup businesses from the bottom up, and to bring in international investment. He said: “Scotland is the most

effective part of the UK outside of London at attracting inward investment and the inward invest- ment plan we released at the end of last year really talks to how we take that to the next level. So it’s that real combination that means that the tech sector is really going to go from strength to strength.”

The updated Digital Strategy, developed by the Scottish Gov- ernment and COSLA in consulta- tion with business and the third sector, includes an ambition to achieve “world leading” levels of digital inclusion to equip Scotland for the technological transfor- mation of the post-coronavirus world. It also highlights a shared com-

mitment to deliver digital public services that are accessible to all and simple to use. On the econ- omy, it recognises the potential for technology and digital ways of working to support Scotland’s post-pandemic recovery and its environmental targets. l

This article was published online on 11 March, 2021

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