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Amazon UK boss to help select new government CDO

Outgoing Amazon UK boss Doug Gurr is on the selection panel to assess candidates for the government chief digital officer role, which offers a salary of up to £200,000 per year

The new government chief digital officer (CDO) will be chosen by a selection panel including the outgoing boss of Amazon UK, Doug Gurr, after the government launched the search earlier this week (24 August), offering up to £200,000 a year, plus a performance-related bonus for the role.

The hunt is spearheaded by Civil Service commissioner Isabel Doverty, with a selection panel including Home Office chief digital, data and technology officer Joanna Davinson, government chief operating officer (COO) Alex Chisholm and Amazon UK country manager Doug Gurr, who earlier this year announced he is stepping down from his role at Amazon to take up a position as director of the Natural History Museum. 

The panel will interview potential candidates before making a final selection, who will then be put before prime minister Boris Johnson for approval.

Amazon, through its cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services, is a major tech supplier to government. Gurr is already an advisor to Whitehall as a member of the Digital Economy Council, which is organised by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Other council members include executives from rival cloud suppliers such as IBM and Microsoft, plus digital experts from organisations that are less likely to be bidding for contracts that may come under the remit of the new CDO.

According to the job applicant pack, the government is looking for a “deeply experienced leader” for whom “there is no working environment more exciting, more challenging, or more rewarding than government, and perhaps no more important time for public service. We have the opportunity to improve the lives of millions of people.

“The government CDO will be responsible for harnessing these unprecedented opportunities, strengthening UK government delivery in the years to come, and inspiring thousands of digital data and technology (DDaT) professionals across the Civil Service to ensure that all the work of the DDaT function is delivered to the highest standard,” the job applicant pack said. 

“DDaT activities are central to all large-scale transformation activity and the main focus for innovation; this role will therefore also be the convenor and coordinator of transformation and innovation activity across the whole of HM government.”

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It added that the coronavirus pandemic has provided “new impetus and opportunity”, and that the efforts put forth by the DDaT profession in government “are integral to the national response, protecting our economy and saving lives”.

“Delivering this change will require a major transformational effort: to update or replace numerous legacy technologies, accelerate the move to scalable cloud-based technologies, define the policies and interfaces needed to unlock the potential of the vast government data sets, and embrace the latest technologies to pioneer ever-more convenient ways to deliver services to citizens and businesses, with ever greater efficiency,” it said.

The government originally launched a recruitment process for a chief digital and information officer in September 2020, which was a relaunch of a previous recruitment process, but with added weight and authority to the job due to placing it on permanent secretary footing.

However, the government was unsuccessful in recruiting a CDIO, and Chisholm said earlier this week that since taking up the role of COO, he has reviewed the role and specification of the job “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”.

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