ScotlandIS achieves new national first

ScotlandIS becomes first organisation in Scotland to be awarded Silver Cluster Management Excellence accreditation for its support to digital and tech clusters

ScotlandIS has achieved a UK first, having been awarded Silver Excellence from the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA).

ESCA has awarded ScotlandIS Silver Excellence Award for developing industry clusters through lifelong learning, creating special interest groups and strategy development. Clusters are regional concentrations of traded industries, shown to have higher average wage and employment increases and inhabit a higher number of innovative and high-growth firms and start-ups*.

The Silver Excellence Award recognises that best practice is being followed and ensures international credibility across global cluster management organisations, putting ScotlandIS at the forefront of cluster management in the UK.

ScotlandIS was the first organisation in Scotland to successfully secure Bronze Accreditation in 2015 and this new Silver status reflects continuous progress that the organisation has made to cluster management.

Jane Morrison-Ross, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said:

“Being the first organisation in Scotland – and highest rated CMO in the UK – to achieve Silver Accreditation is a major achievement. Evidence points to cluster membership helping to make organisations more resilient to economic difficulties, such as during the Covid-19 crisis, building ecosystems that help organisations to share resources and help each other.

As we now strive to build a Digital Nation in Scotland, it is important that Scotland’s flourishing tech sector can access international clusters to help build their robustness and adaptability, safeguard these businesses against any future challenges, and enable digital to continue to underpin all that is critical to our economy . Our Silver Excellence Award ensures that we remain at the forefront of quality cluster development.”

Daniel Stürzebecher, ESCA Expert noted in its assessment of ScotlandIS:

“Already now, the cluster organisation performs in certain aspects on a level that could be considered excellent regarding the Gold Label standards. ScotlandIS will more and more look beyond national borders and has recently introduced internationalisation activities as a focus.”

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said:

“I’m delighted to congratulate ScotlandIS on becoming the first organisation in Scotland to achieve Silver Accreditation from ESCA.

Our technology sector is more crucial now than ever before as over the coming months and years we recover from the economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

We’re working towards becoming a world-class digital nation, and ScotlandIS’ achievement and support for the Scottish tech sector is instrumental in achieving this goal.”

Europe is home to approximately 2,900 specialised clusters. Economic activities that are in specialised clusters account for about 19 per cent of jobs and 22 per cent of wages in Europe*.

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Help build the future of Scotland as a Digital Nation

Scottish-based tech firms are being asked to help build the future of Scotland as a digital nation.

The ScotlandIS Challenge, launched today by ScotlandIS in partnership with The Scottish Government, is calling on companies of all sizes to submit ideas, by Tuesday 16th June, that will help increase the pace of Scotland’s digital progress and develop the critical national digital and data infrastructure the country needs.

The resulting projects will be taken forward as part of The Scottish Government’s CivTech process, which has an established track record of bringing the public and private sectors together to deliver innovative solutions and create new commercial opportunities, from making more essential public services available online, to improving how financial transactions are carried out.

Jane Morrison-Ross, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said:

“Through this challenge, Scotland has the opportunity to become a Digital Nation, a true digital democracy. Digital underpins everything and is critical to our economy. The rapid digital transformation of business and society would not have been possible without the infrastructure, products and services created by our digital ecosystem. 

“But we can do more. And we can do it better. We want to harness technology and innovation to evolve current business models, drive efficiencies and productivity gains across the economy.  To create a country known for innovation, for an ethical approach to data and an integrated approach to public services.  By building the right transformational infrastructure and working collaboratively, we can create a Digital Scotland that is good for the people, the economy, the environment and the government.”

Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Public Finance and Migration said:

ScotlandIS and The Scottish Government are looking for ground-breaking ideas and potential solutions to challenges that display technical expertise and results-based thinking. The ScotlandIS Challenge is open and inclusive, and encourages firms to consider the following:

  • What are the key components of a new digital and data infrastructure and why they are a priority?
  • How can the national digital and data assets of Scotland be protected?
  • What are the technical solutions to build these components and how can they be applied?
  • How could more essential public services be delivered online – be that healthcare, education, or the way we carry out financial transactions?
  • How could The Scottish Government work more closely with the private sector to speed delivery, innovate and maximise benefits and investment to the Scottish economy?

Once ideas have been submitted, an expert multi-disciplinary team formed from Scottish Government and ScotlandIS will review the results, identify common themes, make the results available across Government, agree the priority actions to take and communicate back the findings and recommendations to the sector.

More information can be found on  Digital Nation and responses should be submitted by email to by Tuesday 16th June 2020.

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Funding welcomed to connect Scotland’s most vulnerable

ScotlandIS welcomes news today (Thursday 7th May) of the Scottish Government’s plan to invest £5 million for internet connections, training and support, and a laptop or tablet, to vulnerable people who are not already online during the response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Jane Morrison-Ross, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said:

“ScotlandIS is delighted at news of the Scottish Government’s funding of the Connecting Scotland programme. The initiative, with support from several key industry players, will help the most vulnerable people in Scotland get online to access much needed support, information, and training at this challenging time.

“It is through collaboration, innovation, and intent that we can advance the digitisation of Scotland and ensure no-one is left behind when it comes to online connectivity, and ScotlandIS is proud to play its role in delivering on this ambition. We also wish to convey our gratitude to our members and the wider Scottish technology sector, in particular some of our smaller members who have offered much time, expertise and guidance.  I would also like to thank Gartner for the fantastic project support which has enabled the collaboration between all partners.

The Connecting Scotland project is being delivered by the Scottish Government, in partnership with local authorities, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and the digital and IT sectors led by ScotlandIS. It is also supported by Microsoft, Leidos, the Data Lab, and Accenture.

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Data in the spotlight – contact tracing

The wake of covid, demand for data has combined with a democratisation of data; the general public are talking about R values and voraciously consuming graphs and figures. One of the hottest topics right now is the debate around the use and effectiveness of digital contact tracing apps. Data ethics and privacy are key issues when evaluating the pros and cons of a centralised approach versus a decentralised approach. The centralised approach creates a repository of contacts whereas in the decentralised approach all the data is held on individual’s phones and potential contacts are notified on a push basis only. One of the major concerns with centralised apps is the risk of scope creep. Once there is a central repository, there is potential for the data to be used for other purposes, such as identifying and penalising individuals who have interacted with too many other people. However, a central repository could also be of use to epidemiologists studying the spread of the disease – a purpose many people might be keen to support. Existing data protection law obviously requires data subjects to be informed on how their data will be used so theoretically there is already legal provision to guard against the risks of scope creep, but a lot depends on the phrasing of privacy notices. There is also the question of data retention and the dismantling any central repository when the immediate need has passed (who decides when that is and on what basis?).

Digital contact tracing is really only a small part of the contact tracing solution; it is not really that useful on it’s own. As one commentator said on Singapore’s TraceTogether app: “you can’t big data your way out of a no data situation”. Even if half of the population download and use the app, the chances of picking up a “contact” are only 25% (ie. 50% squared), so the majority of contacts will not be detected. There is also a high potential for false positives, eg. a bus passing close to a block of flats might register contacts which have not actually happened. Most contract tracing will therefore still be largely manual, with an army of people (18k across the UK) working to create a repository of people and contacts. These will be fully identifiable and definitely centralised, but surprisingly this aspect does not seem to be getting the same level of scrutiny as the digital contact tracing apps.

The way in which digital contact tracing functionality is used to supplement manual contact tracing is therefore of key importance and there are a number of potential uses – eg. to help fill gaps in people memories or perhaps to help with prioritisation of testing (eg. if you are ill and have had contact with a covid-19 sufferer, you could potentially be prioritised over someone who has not had contact). These are details which are still emerging.

These questions of data quality, provenance, ethics and privacy are issues which data professionals need to consider on a regular basis. Rarely have they been so high on the public agenda. The current debate highlights the importance and value of giving proper consideration to these questions. Let’s make sure this focus is carried forward into other subject areas and industries as we move beyond COVID-19.

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Businesses still see opportunities for growth, despite pandemic

Despite Covid-19, many firms have identified opportunities for growth over the next nine months. Approximately one third of those surveyed believe business opportunities will rise due to increased or new demands related to Covid-19, particularly in cloud services, digital connectivity, remote working technology, and digital health solutions.

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