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Tom Read to bid farewell to GDS

The Government Digital Service chief is leaving his role, and the civil service as a whole, in June, after three-and-a-half years in charge of the department

Government Digital Service (GDS) chief executive Tom Read is due to leave the organisation he has led for more than three years next month (June 2024).

Announcing his departure on LinkedIn, he said that after 10 years in the civil service – three-and-a-half of which have been at GDS – he has “decided that now is the time for me to move on to a new challenge”.

“I’ll be heading off towards the end of June. It has been an absolute honour and a privilege to lead the digital and technology teams at the Government Digital Service, Justice Digital and elsewhere in the UK government,” said Read.

He added that the government would appoint a successor in “due course”, but in the meantime, GDS was in the “safe hands” of the current leadership team.

Read joined GDS from the Ministry of Justice, where he was the chief digital and information officer (CDIO), in January 2021, giving the organisation, which had been without a permanent boss since July 2019, a firm direction.

A few months into his leadership role at GDS, Read set out a three-year strategy for the organisation and its £90m annual budget, highlighting the three categories of services GDS offers: services that hide the complexity of government structures for users; services that can only be delivered by the centre; and building services once to be reused widely.

One of these is the new digital identity service, One Login, which has had relative success, unlike its predecessor Verify. More than 1.8 million people have now verified their identity using the One Login app, with 30 government services onboarded and more to come over the next year.

In an interview with Computer Weekly shortly after the strategy was released, Read said he saw this as “the third major interation of GDS”.

“My approach is one of bridge-building and working together,” he said. One of Read’s key plans when joining was to build more joined-up services, improve data sharing within government and create common tools for departments.

“The [overall] mission of GDS is about the digital relationship between the user and the state, and how we can make that a more seamless experience, how we can build once and build well – rather than building multiple times – and reducing duplication,” he said in the interview.

During his time in the civil service, Read has held several digital roles, including as chief technology officer at both the then-Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) and the Cabinet Office. However, other than in his role at GDS, Read is probably best known for kicking off the transformation of the justice system while at the helm of the digital function at the Ministry of Justice, including spearheading reforms to modernise technology in prisons and the legal aid service.

Read more about the Government Digital Service

  • During a fireside chat at the Tech Show London, GDS CEO Tom Read and the Ministry of Justice CDIO Gina Gill swapped stories on how their teams are using technology to improve the quality of life for citizens.
  • Review into the civil service by former Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude says GDS and CDDO should become one entity to avoid sending mixed signals around accountability and leadership.
  • Since August 2023, more than 1.8 million people have verified their identity using the One Login app, while face-to-face verifications have also increased.

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