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Whitehall IT veteran Mike Potter returns as new government CDO

Potter will become the most senior digital government leader, in charge of the Central, Digital and Data Office, when he replaces Joanna Davinson in the autumn

The Cabinet Office has appointed Whitehall IT veteran Mike Potter as the new government chief digital officer (CDO).

Potter will replace Joanna Davinson, currently executive director of the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO), when she steps down in the autumn.

The CDO role was advertised earlier this year, with a salary of £190,000, and will be the most senior digital, data and technology leader in UK government, responsible for “shaping and delivering HM government’s digital, data and technology transformation to deliver better services (and ultimately outcomes) for UK citizens”, according to the job advert published at the time.

Potter will lead a team of 200 staff in the CDDO, reporting to the chief operating officer for the civil service, Alex Chisholm.

Most recently, Potter has been working in the private sector, as interim executive director for digital transformation and group chief information officer at Thames Water, but his career shows a long history of senior government IT jobs.

In 2018, he was director of EU exit capability at the Cabinet Office, responsible for overseeing the digital aspects of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Prior to that, he was director of the Future Border programme at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) from October 2017, where he was in charge of the department’s border technology plans, following a stint as interim chief digital and information officer, and two years as digital transformation director.

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At HMRC he was also involved in the development of the Making Tax Digital programme. Previously, he was executive director of business transformation at NHS Blood and Transplant, where he oversaw the growth of the Blood.co.uk website from 35,000 to more than half a million users.

“It’s great to see the civil service attracting such high-calibre leaders to help sharpen our focus on delivering for the British public,” said Cabinet Office minister Heather Wheeler. “Building a more skilled and efficient civil service is a key priority, supported by innovative use of the best technology available – and Mike will be at the heart of that work.”

Chisholm added: “As the new government chief digital officer, Mike will be harnessing the unprecedented opportunities for digital technologies and data across the civil service, strengthening UK government delivery both immediately and in the years to come.”

In a written statement issued by the Cabinet Office, Potter said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to take on the role of government CDO and I’m delighted to be returning to public service at such an important time. I’m looking forward to working with colleagues across the civil service to continue to grow the digital skills we need for the future and deliver the roadmap for digital and data.”

Speaking when he was interim chief digital information officer for HMRC in 2017, Potter enthused about the use of application programming interfaces to open up government data, and oversaw the development of a blockchain-based proof of concept system for UK customs.

Potter said at the time that he wanted a “flourishing API [application programming interface] economy” in government to get rid of siloed behaviour and ensure citizens feel like they are dealing with one entity rather than multiple ones. “We have to transform the experience we offer to people,” he said.

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