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Government yet to recruit chief data officer

Two years after the government began the process to hire a chief data officer, the post continues to sit empty

The government has not yet hired a chief data officer (CDO), despite having begun recruitment more than two years ago.

Hiring a government CDO has been on the cards for years, following the 2015 departure of former Government Digital Service (GDS) boss Mike Bracken, who held the role for a short while, as well as the departure of the government’s data czar, Paul Maltby in 2016.

Plans for a CDO were also set out in the 2017 government transformation strategy. However, according to Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden, the position has not been filled.  

Answering a parliamentary question from junior shadow Cabinet Office minister Jo Platt, Dowden said the post remains open. 

“There is close co-operation between DCMS, GDS and ONS on data policy and governance, while strategic oversight for the collection and use of data held by government departments is currently provided by the cross-government Data Advisory Board, chaired by the chief executive of the Civil Service,” he said.

The news comes only shortly after Dowden revealed the government failed to hire a chief security officer, a role that was billed as “the biggest and most important security job in the UK”. 

The government began recruiting for the £150,000-a-year role in May 2018, but the first round of recruitment failed. Now, instead of recruiting for a permanent role, the government is trying to fill the position temporarily.

Platt, who asked the original parliamentary question, said the lack of a CDO is “yet another dismal failure from government”.

“Just three weeks after we discovered that the government have failed to appoint a chief security officer, we now have it confirmed that they have also failed to appoint a chief data officer – nearly two years after the post was announced,” she said.

“A central point of contact and a source of co-ordination is essential in this technological and data age. Nowhere is that more important than across government. This failure is yet more evidence that the government is asleep at the wheel and that we just cannot trust them to keep us and our data safe.”

Dowden provided no reason behind why the government has yet to recruit a CDO, but Computer Weekly understands this is partly due to a change in priorities at a senior level in government and that there are no immediate plans to fill the role. 

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