The vast potential of digital public services

September 24, 2014 by No Comments | Category Digital Public Services,

This is our first guest blog post by Kathryn Wane, Policy Officer at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).

More public services are going digital. It’s time to ask “what would you like to do online?” Let’s be ambitious!

I’m guessing you’re online or else you wouldn’t be reading this blog. So as you’re here what else, aside from taking in these words of wisdom, are you doing? Shopping? Banking? Tweeting? Secretly reading the Daily Mail sidebar of shame?

From buying shoes to paying a bill the internet has given us the opportunity to do many things at the click of button. Often in the comfort of our own homes (and pyjamas) and at any hour we please.

Recognising the above – and the potential savings that digital services offer – the UK and Scottish Government have been developing digital public services.

Both are creating one-stop shop online portals for public services ( and respectively). The UK government is creating 25 ‘exemplar’ digital services from registering to vote to booking a prison visit online and the Scottish government recently launched its Digital Justice Strategy.

Is Estonia an example of the kind of digital society we want?

But what public services do you wish you could do online?

For example, Estonia is one of the most advanced e-societies in the world. Here you can do everything from paying for your parking to voting online.

In Estonia an individual owns their health record and can access and monitor who has access to them online. In contrast although in Scotland an individual has the right to see their health records, they do not physically own them or control access to their personal information.

So is Estonia – where you can buy houses online and paper prescriptions are a thing of the past – an example of the kind of digital society we want?

At its most basic the internet is a source of information. So if I can know all the details of Kim Kardashian’s marriages and what the weather will do tomorrow why can’t I hold and access information about me online? In addition, it seems that online voting is inevitable so why not get started on this now?

Naturally, there are understandable reservations about digital public services, such as infrastructure, accessibility, digital skills, and the use and safety of personal information online. These all need careful consideration but they shouldn’t inhibit our thinking about digital public services.

From voting to paying your council tax bill, to accessing health records or registering a birth there’s endless potential for what we can do online. So I ask again, what else are you doing, and what do you wish you could do, online?

Interested in discussing the potential for Digital Public Services, among other topics, with a range of academics, policy enthusiasts and practitioners? Then come along to our free festival DigiScotFest North!



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