Between the lines: How a single network is connecting public service organisations across Scotland
The need to establish a single shared network and common IT infrastructure across Scotland was identified as a priority by the Scottish government back in 2010 following the McClelland Review.
McClelland found that the public sector’s use of ICT was behind the private sector, with online services, sharing of technology and ICT procurement not as effective as it could be. In response to this review, the Scottish Government published the ‘Scotland Digital Future: Delivery of Public Services’ strategy and action plan to deliver better digital public service for a better Scotland.
In support of delivering this new national digital public service strategy, a key initiative was established – the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN) – one of the most significant single public sector ICT initiatives ever undertaken in Scotland. SWAN aims to establish a single shared network and common ICT infrastructure for the use of all public service organisations within Scotland.
Launched in 2014, the network is delivered by Capita plc – a leading provider of technology enabled customer and business process services - and connects public sector buildings, schools, GP surgeries, pharmacists, hospitals and local council offices across the mainland and islands - providing scale and connectivity to some of the most geographically challenging areas in Scotland.
Since its launch, the network has brought better connectivity, improved performance and faster internet speeds for nearly 6,000 public sector sites across the country. As a result, key public service organisations are more easily able to communicate with each other, share their services and ultimately provide a better service for Scottish citizens. Currently, the aim is to connect a total of 7,500 public organisations.
SWAN is a great example of how Capita combines talent and technology to innovative service solutions which benefit society. The network offers significant economies of scale, providing real choice, service excellence and value for money for the Scottish taxpayer, which is in turn putting cash back into the public purse, with £30 million savings, as detailed in the Scottish Government’s recently refreshed digital strategy*.
A snap-shot of those organisations benefiting from the service reveals how highly regarded SWAN is - the Scottish Government, Scottish Qualification Agency, Historic Scotland and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, alongside all 22 boards across NHS Scotland and 50 per cent of local authorities are just some of the public services organisations benefiting from the network.
NHS National Services Scotland is the managing authority for the contract and has worked closely with Capita, Scottish Government, independent industry experts and SWAN members to drive digital services across the country.
SWAN is now a well-established cornerstone of cross-sectoral collaboration across the public sector in Scotland. Digital services are now the default for all public sector bodies in Scotland and SWAN is well placed to be adapted and enhanced to keep pace with the increased expectations this will bring across the country.
Director of IT for NHS NSS
Simon Haston, Head of IT & Transformation at Aberdeen City Council, where SWAN has been used to provide enhanced connectivity across Aberdeen, feels that: “The progressive approach of SWAN in creating a collaborative environment for all the Scottish public sector, in which we have a voice for our individual as well as shared requirements, makes it an ideal platform on which to build our vision. We are already benefiting from enhanced connectivity and are in an excellent position to increase bandwidth in the future, as and when it is required.”
As well as delivering reduced service costs, cutting the cost of procurement and enabling greater collaboration, SWAN is also helping to unify network assurance. By applying a common standard of data assurance, it is simplifying public sector interaction and ensuring greater security for data that’s transmitted both internally and externally.
With organisations realising the ongoing and significant benefits that can come from using SWAN, the focus is now on trialling a secure email service and helping them to make best use of the shared areas of SWAN to collaborate and drive inter-agency working.
Public services organisations now understand that SWAN isn’t just a new network, but a significant foundation to help them to unlock value and progress digital transformation, making a real difference to current and future public services.
*Source: Realising Scotland’s Full Potential in a Digital World: A Digital Strategy for Scotland, Scottish Government report, 2017.
This article was first published by The Scotsman.