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Government makes digital leadership changes

The government has begun recruiting for a chief digital officer at permanent secretary level and Government Digital Service director general Alison Pritchard is leaving to join the Office for National Statistics

Whitehall is recruiting for a government chief digital officer (CDO) after failing to fill the previously advertised position of government chief digital and information officer (CDIO).

Civil Service chief operating officer (COO) Alex Chisholm made the announcement in a blog post, where he said the government CDO role would be a permanent secretary level.

“We are today beginning the recruitment of the government chief digital officer role at permanent secretary level,” he said.

“The GCDO will be the professional head of HMG’s 18,000-strong DDaT profession, oversee GDS and lead the DDaT function.

“They will be responsible for shaping and delivering Her Majesty’s Government’s (HMG) innovation and transformation strategies to overhaul government’s legacy IT systems, strengthen our cyber security, improve capability, and ensure government can better leverage data and emerging technologies to design and deliver citizen-centric services that enhance HMG’s reputation as the world’s most digitally-advanced government.

The government originally launched a recruitment process for a CDIO in September 2020, a relaunch of a previous recruitment process, but with added weight and authority to the job by placing it on permanent secretary footing.

The original job ad said the role calls for a “deeply experienced functional leader” who will devise strategies to overhaul government’s legacy IT systems, which has been pointed out as a priority, as well as strengthen cyber security across departments, another area where concerns have been raised.

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The government was unsuccessful in recruiting a CDIO and Chisholm said that since taking up the role of COO he has reviewed the role and person specification of the job “in order to reflect the government’s high ambitions for transforming digital services and use of data, and the key part this role will play in realising that ambition”.

“We have also clarified the levers and support that the GCDO will be able to draw on to make a full success of it,” he said.

Chisholm also announced the departure of Government Digital Service (GDS) interim director general Alison Pritchard. Pritchard, who was previously GDS’s COO, has held the role since the departure of Kevin Cunnington, who left GDS in July 2019.

Pritchard will move to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), where she will take up the role of deputy national statistician and director general for data capability in October 2020, a role which has been held in the interim by Frankie Kay.

Current GDS COO Fiona Deans will take on the role of interim director general of GDS.

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