Striking the balance

Blog by John King, Business development director at Registers of Scotland.

I was invited to speak at the annual summit of the Australian Information Industry Association on our digital transformation programme. Much of the focus throughout the conference was around the challenges that such programmes need to meet, particularly in the areas such as security, the treatment of personal data, delivery approaches, and the general shortage of digital skills. These are all areas that we’ve had to actively grapple with in our transformation programme, which means that RoS has useful experiences to share.

Security was a key theme of the conference, emphasising the importance of public bodies recognising that the information they hold, and the way in which they collect, store and use that information, and the supporting systems and processes they use, are appropriately secure. Something I was happy to endorse as our first strategic objective is ensuring the integrity of our registers. But equally, there was a strong message throughout the day that organisations should not use the security card to avoid innovating. Rather, they should be conscious of security and build it into their thinking from the outset – an approach we’re following.

The point was also made that security has to be appropriate – not everything needs the same high level of security as may surround, for instance, the way in which data is stored. So if you want to promote the use of mobile devices within the workplace, a balance needs to be struck between security and ease of use. Similarly, if you have online channels, you don’t want to make access to them so robust that some users are dissuaded from using them – a lesson we learnt from our ARTL system when developing our advance notice system.

I encountered an example of this when I visited Canberra’s truly excellent Olympic swimming pool – think commonwealth pool but without a roof. As you’d expect, a locker system’s available. Except these lockers are digital, so there’s no key to attach to your swimming costume, which is always a fiddle. Sounds good, until you have to first remember a six digit password, followed by a secondary security question based on remembering a colour from a choice of seven. On top of that, you have to pay $3, which is non-refundable. Robust security indeed, which suited me as I had a passport, money, and office phone to protect. But it seemed like I was the only one it suited, for the poolside was littered with change bags, towels and clothes. Perhaps no surprise, as Canberra is one of the safest cities in Australia.

Back to the summit, and I was impressed with the initiatives being taken to grow digital skills. Digital businesses have linked up with schools to teach digital skills, and much is being done to break the perception of digital as being a male profession. Organisations such as Code Like a Girl are aiming to get more girls into computer classes. There are also apprentice schemes, and universities are promoting additional places for certain IT/digital courses to address some of the key shortages.

Within RoS, both at executive management level and within our transformation programme, we have been assessing what we can do to play our part in helping not just our own organisation, but the wider Scottish economy grow digital skills. This is a key area for ensuring our future success, and one that we are rightly focusing on.

With the conference now over, my last few days will be spent in Sydney, where I’m meeting with colleagues from the New South Wales land and property service. And then it’s back to the UK with its low temperatures and roofed swimming pools. I can’t wait…!

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