‘TECHNOLOGY was a rich man’s game”. Never did a quote from the future seem so true.

For some time, liberal democracies have been rushing headlong into a future so well defined by the late sci-fi writer Brian Aldiss. Indeed, many would argue that the forces of unbridled mercantilism are working day and night with our help to gain free access to every ounce of our digital self. From unsecure laptops to accessing our online purchasing history, from our social media engagement, even through our unsecure public records; individually and collectively we are willingly allowing large corporations as well as undemocratic forces to access and use our digital footprint to direct our digital self, to inform our purchasing decisions and even influence our fears as well as our political and social choices.

In truth, nation states and citizens across the globe are leaching the most important commodity of our age: data, freely and without thought of the long-term consequences for ourselves, our communities and our democracies.

From America’s GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft) to Chinas BATX (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi), each and every public service is a mere open door to our individual and collective data. It is a door that requires an individual and collective digital mortise lock to bolster our digital rights. If we fail to secure that digital door, these corporations and undemocratic forces will find easy low-lying fruit in our public services which are ready for the picking.

We’re already seeing GAFAM seek to influence the UK Government’s rehashed Covid-19 tracing app and we’re also seeing Microsoft and Google play a substantial part in our education infrastructure and potentially accessing the data of students from primary school all the way through to university, and using that data to influence our life choices. Their involvement in projects is not wrong. Nevertheless, they are leading on projects when it’s the states that should be leading and limiting their access to our data.

As we venture once again as a sovereign nation state, we will have to rise to a challenge the Union has failed completely; as citizens we Scots must individually educate ourselves about the strengths and weaknesses of our digital nation, ensuring that it is resilient and fit for purpose. Scotland has much to be proud of, yet much to learn and ponder.

A major element of that shall be leadership, and politicians, civil servants at all levels, trade unions and civic leaders, not just those in the field of digitisation or involved in technology, will have to grasp the opportunities constitutional change offers for our governance and destiny and not merely mimic the closed, cumbersome system of governance personified in the failed Westminster model.

In this series of articles, I’ll look at one of Europe’s smallest nation states, Estonia, and its digital statehood; how living with and beside a large neighbour post-independence has shaped its long and imperfect journey to become a digital nation state; how it was a 1960s digital thinker; how the fall of the Soviet Union and regaining freedom from communism reignited the flame of innovation from nothing; the importance of support offered through equal membership of the largest liberal democratic union in the world, the EU; and importantly the continuing challenges it faces to create an inclusive society. In the weeks ahead I hope you will join me on a journey through a digital reality in which many would argue that the nation state must assert the sovereignty of the people, in order to create what Violaines Champetier de Ribes and Jean Spiri call in their book The Full Digital Nation an “effective shield against an increasingly invasive interference of GAFAM and BATX of the USA and China respectively”.

AT journey’s end, I hope you will conclude as I have that Scotland requires not only to be a digital nation but one which offers Scots a radically different digital nationhood in which the state is a servant of the people through a more open, transparent and trustworthy system of government, and effectively borderless.

We need a Scotland in which we use technology not merely to reduce bureaucracy but to improve our wellbeing, ensuring every citizen no matter if you live up a 22-storey flat or in an island croft, is supported to be an equal digital citizen; a nation state that recognises the opportunities such radical change offers as we redevelop our economy in a post-Covid world.

Oh, and where we the citizen have full access to our public records without the need for cumbersome paperwork. That will put the cat amongst the pigeons.