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Cunnington’s role as head of function for DDaT needs changing, says IfG report

Kevin Cunnington’s role as the head of function for digital, data and technology (DDaT) should be to sit on the Civil Service Board, spread standards and provide targets for digital transformation, the think tank says

The Institute for Government (IfG) has called for the head of function for digital, data and technology (DDaT), Kevin Cunnington, to focus on putting together a plan with clear targets for implementing the government’s transformation strategy, which was published last year.  

The plan should include how many services have been digitised so far, how secure they are and which departments are using shared digital services.

In a report looking at the responsibilities for the DDaT head, the IfG also criticised Cunnington and Government Digital Service (GDS) for having become less transparent in recent years.  

It said that Cunnington, who is also the director general of GDS, should improve openness at the organisation.

“The government transformation strategy, published in 2017, celebrated openness as a way of working. But it lacked specifics about what would be done, by whom, by when,” the report said, adding that individual departments’ single departmental plans (SDPs) “are not specific enough to be used to assess progress on digital transformation”.

“It is not clear why GDS has become less open, but this and the fact that published SDPs are not specific has had two effects.

“First, it is harder to assess the performance of the head of DDaT function. Second, GDS and those working on transformation across government have lost the benefits of working in the open,” the IfG said.

Changing the job description

The think tank also said the role’s job description should be revised to improve its potential to help transform government services.

It called on the head of function for DDaT, which supports 17,000 roles across government, should set an overaching strategy for professionalising DDaT and develop the workforce through career path development.

Read more about DDaT

It also raised standards as a key issue, calling on Cunnington to “encourage the adoption of standards more widely across the public sector, for example, by encouraging the spread of the Local Government Digital Service Standard”.

It said there is a need to clarify standards by distinguishing between measurable standards and guidance.

An IfG report last year called on the government to do more to clarify and push common standards across public services. It said that if GDS clarified its standards, it would be “easier for it to hold departments to account for meeting them”, but so far, there has been no clarification on standards from government.  

The IfG also said that Cunnington as DDaT head should have a place at the table of the Civil Service Board, which is chaired by head of the civil service Jeremy Heywood.

Read more on IT for government and public sector

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