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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan appoints first chief digital officer

Camden Council’s Theo Blackwell will lead the digital transformation of the capital city

London mayor Sadiq Khan has appointed Camden Council’s digital leader Theo Blackwell as the first chief digital officer (CDO) for the city.

Blackwell is currently cabinet member for finance, technology and growth at Camden, where he has led the implementation of an ambitious digital strategy for the borough.

He has worked in public policy for more than 20 years for leading think tanks and consultancies. In 2010, he advised the then UK digital champion Martha Lane Fox on local government engagement.

Over the past five years, he has worked in the video games industry as head of policy and public affairs for trade body Ukie where he led their work on Brexit and the Next Gen Skills campaign to reintroduce computing in schools.

Blackwell has been a vocal advocate for better digital strategies in local government. In an article written for Computer Weekly in 2016, he set out proposals for how devolved regional and city administrations could put digital transformation at the heart of their plans.

“Devolution – particularly around health and social care integration – presents an opportunity to establish expectations around digital transformation for city regions,” he wrote.

“Newly elected mayors and combined authorities will need to be able to join up, analyse and act on data from across their areas to identify the problems they seek to tackle and the service demand they aim to meet.

“They need to consider how work on smart cities can be progressed – alongside better broadband infrastructure, support for high-tech businesses, workforce and broader digital skills.”

Mayor Khan launched a search for a London CDO in May this year, having made it a manifesto commitment when he was elected in 2016.

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According to the mayor’s office, in the new job Blackwell will help to develop a Smart London Plan, and will play a central role in building collaboration across London’s boroughs and businesses, to drive the digital transformation of public services.

He will also promote pan-London collaboration on connectivity, digital inclusion, cyber security and open data and contribute to plans for a London Office for Technology and Innovation.

Khan said: “I am determined to make London the world’s leading smart city with digital technology and data at the heart of making our capital a better place to live, work and visit.

“We already lead in digital technology, data science and innovation and I want us to make full use of this in transforming our public services for Londoners and the millions of visitors to our great city.” 

Blackwell said he hopes the CDO role will help bring innovation, jobs and investment to London. “The pace of change over the next decade requires public services to develop a stronger relationship with the tech sector,” he said. 

“Our purpose is to fully harness London’s world-class potential to make our public services faster and more reliable at doing things we expect online, but also adaptable enough to overcome the capital’s most complex challenges,” he said.

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