SCIENCE fiction fans know that the future has already arrived. Believe it or not, the original Blade Runner filmed in 1982 with Harrison Ford by Ridley Scott was set in 2019. Thank goodness much of the dystopian world in the movie has not come to pass, however the effects of technology on the environment and society which were key themes in Blade Runner are more relevant now than ever.

Like it or not, the pace of change appears to be accelerating and we must get our heads around the new digital and technological realities of the 21st century. Over the next decades we should expect to experience more innovation and change than has occurred in the sum of human existence. While it is imperative that we do everything that we can to protect our threatened global environment through climate action, we must also decide whether we will be swept along in the tide of technological and societal change or help shape the new realities.

READ MORE: Robertson calls for move towards Scottish 'Digital Citizenship'

What seemed like far-out science fiction only a few years ago will certainly transform our lives, our societies and massively impact on the economy and the world of work. Robotics, automation and artificial intelligence are going to have a revolutionary impact. The commercialisation of genomics and next stages in data development are enough to excite and scare in equal measure.

Just as you thought you had got your head around the digital revolution which brought us the personal computer, internet and information and communication technology, we now stand at the start of what is being described as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. This includes artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and autonomous vehicles.

If you are interested in knowing more about these changes, I’d strongly recommend reading The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum. Similarly The Industries Of The Future by Alec Ross is required reading. The former senior adviser on innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton persuasively explains what changes are coming and how countries can thrive or sputter.

In Scotland there are many aspects of these changes which are being pioneered close to home. Our tech sector is particularly strong when it comes to software development, data science, digital health, sensors and connectivity.

Scotland’s universities produce thousands of high-class graduates in relevant disciplines every year. Perhaps it’s an advantage of scale as a smaller country, but Scotland has a successful focus bringing together the private-sector, academic and public-sector organisations to make sure that there is real-world testing for innovative products.

The nation’s capital was recently named the top city in the UK for start-ups and attracts more foreign investment than any other tech cluster in the UK, outside London. According to Tech Nation it has 92% growth potential.

Scotland doesn’t have to look very far to see how other smaller European countries are pioneering new technology, providing real advantages to citizens and the economy. Estonia has been named as “the most advanced digital society in the world” and absolutely revolutionised the relationship between citizens and public services.

The Baltic nation only emerged from Soviet rule less than three decades ago, yet has pioneered direct access services to the public which are the envy of pubic administrators the world over. Starting with e-Governance in 1997 they moved on to e-Tax in 2000, X-Road in 2001, Digital ID in 2002, i-Voting in 2005, Public Safety in 2007, Blockchain in 2008, e-Health in 2008 and e-Residency. As a country which has experienced the abuses of totalitarian government and the first full-scale cyber attack by a hostile state actor on national systems, the Estonians are extremely sensitive to issues of privacy and security. However, they have not let these challenges put them off.

Scotland is in a strong position to emulate much of this best practice. While devolution limits the power of our government and parliament to deliver the full range of services that Estonian citizens enjoy, there is still wide scope of areas where it can. I strongly support the introduction of “Scottish Digital Citizenship” for everyone who lives in Scotland and uses public services here.

Devolved public services touch on all people’s lives from education, health, justice, environment, transport, local government, agriculture, fisheries and include new services like some aspects of social security. The Scottish Government already uses digital technology to inform people about these services and also digital public access for many of them, but not in the same comprehensive way as Estonia. IT projects have, of course, a horrific reputation for delays, complications and cost over-runs, but we should not limit our ambition as the world changes around us.

I want Scotland to embrace the opportunities of our new technological era. Analogue thinking belongs in the last century. In this digital age people in Scotland should be digital citizens.