Let’s deliver growth through data

Our guest blog comes from Kate Forbes, Scottish Government Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, who explains why Scotland is in a great position to use data to drive inclusive economic growth

It’s an opportune time to be writing for the DDI blog, following this year’s DataFest19. With over 60 events taking place across Scotland over a fortnight and attracting several thousand people, DataFest is a great way of putting Scotland on the international stage for data-driven innovation.

Congratulations to the team at the Data Lab, Scotland’s data innovation centre, for organising such a successful programme. It was great to see universities, colleges and public bodies who are partners in the DDI programme contributing to the events this year. You got the message out, loud and clear, that data is important and data-driven innovation presents great opportunities.

I firmly believe that data and digital are enablers of public service reform and economic growth. In our public services, our vision is to use data to improve the services we deliver. We must, however, bring people on the journey with us. So we need to make sure we continue to be respected for safe and ethical use of people’s data.

Building on that foundation of trust, we are well placed in Scotland to take advantage of data-driven innovation. Our size as a country, our organisations and our land, our prestigious and dynamic universities and our growing business community enabling the adoption of data science and analytics mean we have a competitive edge. Crucially, we are able to bring these elements together so that we collaborate and #dodatatogether – a key theme of DataFest this year.

Last year we published an updated Digital Strategy for Scotland “Realising Scotland’s Full Potential in a Digital World”. In this we said we would “use City and Region deals to maximise the role that digital innovations and infrastructure can play in delivering both economic and inclusive growth”. The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal is a great example of this. From a recent visit to the University of Edinburgh I was delighted to see commitments become reality and some of the impressive work being undertaken as a result of the Deal.

Beyond the bricks and mortar of the buildings that are required for hosting the innovation centres arising from the Deal, it is imperative that there are real and tangible benefits arising from the money being invested. During my visit I got to hear about an impressive range of data-driven activities taking place at the School of Informatics. There are plans to improve the digital and data skills which will reach right across the population of the region. This will be hugely important as new technologies are introduced and to ensure that we are all well-equipped for the future.

Few projects highlight the opportunities for Scotland better than the exciting UNICEF project, which sees the Scottish Government, the Data Lab, the University and UNICEF collaborating to create a UNICEF Data for Children Hub in Scotland. This project recognises there is incredible potential for policy development in using data science and it will shape early years and child policy delivery. In particular, it will draw on the strengths of all partners and use data science to improve the health and wellbeing of children both in Scotland and globally.

The range of work I heard about during my visit reassured me that the University and partners in the Deal are making good progress on the commitments in the Deal. This recognises the importance of inclusivity, improving the lives of our people by using data to good effect and also the need to collaborate to ensure substantial benefits are realised.

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