By Gopalan Rajagopalan, Head, TCS Scotland

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home the importance of a robust digital and IT infrastructure for all kinds of organizations. But for essential services, maintaining ‘business as usual’ as much as the limitations of the outbreak allow has been vital.

One example of this is the experience of Scotland’s Improvement Service. As the “go-to” organization for local government improvement in the country, it helps councils and their partners work to improve the health, quality of life and opportunities of hundreds of thousands of people.

The challenges coronavirus brought – including lockdowns and social distancing – meant it was crucial for the organization to continue to function smoothly to be able to deal with increased demand quickly and effectively.

Mission critical

As well as the health and well-being of our 446,000 associates across 46 countries, at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) our priority during the pandemic has been to continue to support the mission-critical IT backbones of our clients across the globe.

For the past 50 years, TCS has pioneered location-independent work practices that utilize collaboration platforms, cloud enabled infrastructure and robust security practices. Not only has this helped build customer trust in technology systems, but it’s strongly positioned them to navigate the uncharted waters we now find ourselves in. 

We are currently working with more than 1,000 organizations to keep them up and running during this time. This includes supporting some of the largest health care and pharmacy companies in the world, managing integrated systems – including online channels – for retail companies, and running technology for governments and public services organizations. 

TCS is currently working with more than 1,000 organizations to keep them up and running during the pandemic. Source: Shutterstock

Cloud migration

In Scotland, we have supported the Improvement Service since 2013. Its platform for Digital Public Services is now used by more than 25 local authorities across the country for a wide spectrum of online services for customers. 

The flagship service, ‘myaccount’, is the secure and easy way to access online public services in Scotland. Operated and managed by the Improvement Service and powered by TCS, it provides citizens with the ability to prove who they are online and in person. Citizens can also create a verifiable digital identity, linking it to their ‘myaccount’, and use it to log in to online public services, including through biometrics.

A rise in demand due to COVID-19 has seen the number of registered ‘myaccount’ users increase by around 20% to over 1 million. TCS has built on its work with the Improvement Service, successfully migrating seven services in its Digital Public Services stable to a new cloud infrastructure.

This means local authority teams can concentrate on maintaining and delivering essential services with a higher responsiveness rate, as ‘myaccount’ ensures that secure online and contactless channels are available. It also helps reduce footfall to frontline offices, generates efficiencies and frees up staff time.

The cloud migration was achieved in less than three months – providing a more flexible and secure infrastructure.  

Using ‘myaccount’, citizens can create a verifiable digital identity. Source: Shutterstock

Contactless channels

Following on from the success of ‘myaccount’, the Improvement Service launched a new digital service in July 2020 – getyournec.scot. Scotland’s National Entitlement Card allows citizens to access services and facilities like library and leisure services and travel concessions. A consultation with local authorities had revealed overwhelming support for an online channel to be the primary route to apply for and manage the card.

getyournec.scot allows citizens to apply for an Entitlement Card from the comfort of their own homes. Initially made available to new applications for over-60s concessionary bus travel, it will be extended shortly to other users and age groups. The new site provides a contactless channel accessible from a smartphone, mobile device or a laptop with a camera, reducing the physical visits to council offices needed when citizens present their proof of identity in person. 

The IT infrastructure needed to support this development was created and implemented in a short timescale. It has already launched in one local authority, and 28 out of the 32 Scottish authorities have expressed interest in using it, with 18 of these onboarding now. 

Innovation and ingenuity

The role of such digital public services has been significant during the pandemic. And even when the threat of the crisis eases, the acceleration of the digital transformation of services is set to continue. 

Organizations such as the Improvement Service, tasked with delivering such vital services, will benefit from the reduced costs of this transformation. Local authorities will experience reduced pressure on frontline services during the recovery period. And end users will benefit from faster turnaround and simpler access to the public services to which they are eligible and entitled.

Since the extension in 2018 of an initial five-year contract with the Improvement Service, TCS has achieved high customer satisfaction levels – in excess of 98.5% – for its role in powering ’myaccount’. In 2019, the service was recognized as the most innovative use of ICT in delivering public services by the Holyrood Connect Innovate Award.

As the world comes together to fight COVID-19, technology continues to play a central role. From medicine to education and almost everything in between, it is enabling people to carry on with their lives – sometimes in new and unexpected ways.

And those organizations that complement innovation and ingenuity with powerful technology and disruptive solutions will be best placed to help them do so.