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The government still plans to appoint a chief data officer (CDO) in 2020, according to Simon Hart, minister for implementation at the Cabinet Office.
The still-to-be-recruited, permanent secretary-level role of chief digital information officer (CDIO), announced in September 2019, will not replace the role of chief data officer (CDO), said Hart.
According to the Government Digital Service (GDS) minister, the aim is to appoint a CDO next year, as set out in the government transformation strategy. This emerged in Hart’s answer to a parliamentary question from Jon Trickett MP, who asked if the newly created role of CDIO would replace the unfilled CDO role.
Hart also told Jo Platt MP that the CDO would work alongside the CDIO to deliver innovation and transformation strategies and lead the government’s 17,000-strong IT workforce.
Finding leaders to focus on data matters in central government has been a challenge since 2017, when the government first advertised the role of CDO.
A recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report argued that the government had not treated data strategically enough, and that although the appointment of a CDO had been delayed because the government wanted conditions for success, the data chief should now be hired as a matter of urgency.
The PAC report said hiring a CDO should be prioritised before the Cabinet Office does any more work on developing the National Data Strategy, which is due to be published in 2020.
The job specification for the CDIO – who will report to John Manzoni, chief executive of the civil service at the Cabinet Office, and work closely with Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden – says one of the key responsibilities is making the most out of data and emerging technologies to design and deliver citizen-centric services.
Applications for the CDIO job close today (7 October), and according to Manzoni, the role will require a “very wise, very experienced and very powerful” professional to take on the big job of leading IT and digital change across Whitehall.