Digital Triage for Covid-19
Blog by Liam Anderson, Business Analyst, Product and Commercial Division.
Before the UK was put into lockdown, the Product and Commercial Division, based in the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate, were mobilised to form a Digital Triage Team. The Covid-19 pandemic triggered an extraordinary demand for digital solutions for health, digital health, economy and education, with other themes emerging as lockdown measures were put in place. Businesses large and small responded to the crisis identifying technology solutions to aid in the effort to keep Scotland upright.
What was the problem?
A huge number of contacts from industry were received by the Scottish Government; within these there were some amazing offers to help digitally. At the start of the pandemic response there was no central landing point for these to be received, many were being forwarded to individual members of staff, Directors, members of the Cabinet and a few directly to the First Minister. As a newly formed triage team our first job was to decide how we were going to receive offers of help. There was a huge collaborative effort with the wider Digital Directorate to effectively map out triage channels. Once this was in place the Digital Triage Team began linking with various ‘Hubs’ across government – who had been prioritising the use and allocation of resources, and designing targeted responses- to identify if there was value and use in deploying offers to a particular area.
Offers from external suppliers, SMEs, large consultancies and individuals were all triaged as either offers of: People, Services or Products. Inbound offers of services and products required an in-depth consideration process involving technical, cyber and Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA) on a case by case basis. A lot of time was spent contacting each company to gather more information about what they could do, then regrouping as a virtual team to work through where offers could effectively be triaged to.
Where a need had already been met in government hubs, we identified our first challenge; finding another use for an offer that on the face of it may only have one use. We held various digital triage group sessions where many new themes emerged from the series of offers we had. There was a point where the triage team had to reverse the process; taking emergent themes such as education, health, third sector and track & trace and develop potential use cases and/or proposals for how an offer of a digital intervention could be of benefit. This move to actively working backwards proved useful when linking with the hubs. By adopting a show, not tell approach we were able to brief on the benefits of the technology solutions rather than wait for user needs to be identified.
Many of our people offers were subsequently directed to the newly established Scottish Tech Army, which was founded by Edinburgh based entrepreneurs, Alistair Forbes, Peter Jaco and Sandy Finlayson as a not for profit company that was building a volunteer Covid19 technical response team of individuals who had been furloughed or made redundant to new graduates. They are working to aid SG, Local Authorities and Third Sector organisations across the country with rapid technical help.
So far, we have successfully developed offers for employee health and wellbeing, sourcing kit for vulnerable communities in Scotland, explored offers with Public Health Scotland for scaling up of track and trace, and also further developed an offer for procurement to ensure we do not fall prey to counterfeits and copycats whilst procuring in times of adversity. There is still a number of use cases and proposals which are being paired with offers and scoped with hubs across government; over the coming weeks we are confident these will be developed into projects.
As we continue to work with areas that need help and develop ways to use these generous offers, the time spent working as a triage team has provided the Product and Commercial Division with an opportunity to build and develop relationships and strategic partners across Scottish Government and the wider public sector.