Estonian ambassador to help show at Digital Scotland event how Scotland can gain tech traction

An event billed as Scotland’s flagship technology conference for the public sector takes place this week, focused on building best-in-class digital public services, and examining how the nation can “punch above its weight” in the global tech economy.

Digital Scotland is expected to welcome more than 800 delegates at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) on Tuesday October 25, ahead of the launch of a new wave of government web services, including digital identity, cloud and online financial transactions.

Guest speakers include Estonia’s ambassador to the UK Viljar Lubi, who will chart the rise of the Baltic nation from post-Soviet republic to “global tech powerhouse” credited with spawning multiple “unicorns” – privately-held tech start-ups worth at least $1 billion (£897 million) – and where every citizen has a digital ID.

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Mr Lubi said: “Our working life is so digital, and increasingly so, therefore we cannot and should not shy away from it. Exactly the opposite, we should grasp the opportunity and transform it to the benefit of everyone. Let’s not talk about challenges, let’s talk about opportunities. This is the Estonian philosophy.”

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Scotland’s business minister Ivan McKee is also set to address the event, focusing on how the Scottish Government is “changing how it does business to enable effective digital government”.

Hamish Miller, director of conference organiser FutureScot, said: “This is an important moment for the tech sector in Scotland. Behind the scenes in government, there is an active programme of development in digital identity, cloud and financial payments, which are set to transform how citizens interact with their public services. Hosting the Estonian ambassador at the conference will hopefully generate a lot of discussion about how Scotland can also punch above its weight in the global tech economy, especially given Estonia’s success in digital identity and cybersecurity.”

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Furthermore, the conference will be a forum for discussion on how to scale the tech sector and promote economic growth, one of the ambitions of government policy. Also high on the agenda will be how public services can ensure they are tailored to the needs of the individual, ensuring no-one is left behind by the digital revolution. Progress on Scotland’s infrastructure rollout, including connectivity programmes such as Reaching 100% (R100), will be part of a series of afternoon leadership sessions that also include emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

Workforce transformation, providing the necessary skills to enable workers to get ahead in the digital economy, is also expected to be an important topic on the day, especially with a growing digital skills gap in the labour market.

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'Our working life is so digital and increasingly so... we should grasp the opportunity and transform it to the benefit of everyone,' says Estonian ambassador to the UK Viljar Lubi, who is speaking at the Digital Scotland event. Picture: Aidan Synnott.

Those behind the tech conference also cited a CBI Scotland study last year indicating that the adoption of new technologies – and the skills to use them – could boost the Scottish economy by £25bn over the next decade, but added that this would only be realised by raising the “digital competency of everyone in Scotland”.

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EICC chief executive Marshall Dallas earlier this year noted how Digital Scotland last November hosted more than 700 delegates when it took place at the venue, while the event was in 2019 hosted by Strathclyde University’s Technology & Innovation Centre, with Linnar Viik, branded one of the architects of Estonia’s “tiger leap” to tech leader, in the role of international keynote speaker.

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