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Another example of the Platform approach is seen through plans by the Scottish Government to implement a ‘PPaaS’ – Payment Platform as a Service.

This is derived from their digital economy action plan, where they describe:

“Create common digital platforms for services that will encourage Scottish public and voluntary sector organisations to innovate in the delivery of public services.”

with specific use cases such as Payments: “Introduce shared technology platforms, starting with common approaches to publishing information, applying for services, and making/receiving payments.”

When you consider the multiple different types of payment systems duplicated numerous times across all levels of the Scottish public sector, you can start to envisage the type of mass efficiency improvements the Platform approach makes possible through simplifying this complexity to a single system.

Furthermore it sets the scene for the type of national transformation this article defines, a transformation explored by the Common Weal.

The Case for a Scottish Payments System

In their recent paper they define the Case for a Scottish Payments System; in short the policy context for the PPaaS system.

The report describes a very compelling range of benefits for the whole of Scotland achievable through replacing the commercial banks and credit card processors with a non-profit entity, meaning those vast profits are reinvested back into the social needs of the country.

This would be in addition to massive efficiency savings also netted across the public sector. They describe local governments making use of the service, but there are a multitude of other scenarios too. For example the plans to devolve some Social Security powers includes programs such as The Regulated Social Fund, Discretionary Housing Payments and powers to top up reserved benefits.

So again, a payments service is a building block feature, so yet more potential for compounding efficiency savings, and the key question to ask is what new socio-economic models can these technological innovations also make possible?

Monetizing the Margins

The author of the Common Weal paper is an expert from the field of Open Banking, in essence the Platformation of banking.

One of Scotland’s leading light innovators in this field is The ID Co, and in their blog they describe how this sharing of banking data makes possible smarter financial products for consumers.

Again when married with a context of policy innovation this offers a powerful tool set for transformative social innovation.

In a 2014 white paper, the US Postal Service Office of Inspector General says that their post office should think about targeting the quarter of American households – 68 million adults – that are underserved by the banking industry.

They describe a problem that is common universally for all those living at poverty levels:

“Millions of Americans do not have a bank account, or use costly services like payday loans and check cashing exchanges just to make ends meet.”

and consequently how:

“In 2012, they spent about $89 billion just on interest and fees for alternative financial services.”

In short they make the same core point as the Common Weal, that there are commercial companies making a vast fortune from fees for services that those in poverty are forced to use due to their circumstances, often with very negative social consequences, for example pay day lenders.

Providing them an alternative, as a public utility, would yield multiple benefits for the country, one that leverages massive savings from the public sector to provide a more solid financial foundation for those in tough circumstances to build their lives upon.

Scotland – Global Pioneer of Social Capitalism

Another Canadian article describes an effect of ‘Monetizing the Margins‘ – Innovative new ways for the public sector to create citizen value at the peripheries of society.

Technologies like the Payments Platform can be seen as an opportunity for this type of ‘GovTech’ innovation, a field that Public specializes in investing in – They too see this same social potential:

With this type of innovation also intersecting with another massive growth market, that of Open Banking where Scotland has emerging startups like The ID Co, then we can see that these developments would act as a massive accelerator for our local tech sector.

Countries like the USA have clearly mastered the processes of capitalism, their venture capital industry repeatedly backs and profits from the success of these types of high growth tech companies.

But there is no social context, these massive economic gains benefit only the few not the many. Scotland’s opportunity is 21st century ‘Social Capitalism’, a rising tide effect that fuels these types of wealth generating ventures but within a system where that also results in a better social system for all.

Neil McEvoy
Founder of Digital Scotland. Veteran entrepreneur with 20+ years of pioneering Cloud computing innovations and best practices.

Platformation – Cloud Computing Tools at the Service of Social Change

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