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Oliver Dowden takes on ministerial responsibility for digital government

Cabinet Office junior minister Oliver Dowden has been given the responsibility for digital government, shared services and cyber and resilience in his role as minister for implementation

Oliver Dowden has become the fourth minister in two years in charge of the Government Digital Service (GDS), as part of prime minister Theresa May’s latest cabinet reshuffle.

The junior Cabinet Office minister has been appointed minister for implementation, and given a range of responsibilities, including digital government, cyber and resilience, shared services and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).

Dowden takes over the GDS brief from former Cabinet Office parliamentary under-secretary Caroline Nokes, who last week was moved to become minister of state for immigration at the Home Office.

Nokes herself was only in the job for around six months, having been appointed in the 2017 general election when former Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer lost his seat.

At the time, critics were concerned that giving a junior minister with no digital experience responsibility for digital government signalled a lack of commitment.

With David Lidlington appointed new Cabinet Office minister following the ousting of Damian Green, many were hoping for a serious commitment to digital. However, again the brief is falling to a junior minister. 

Like his predecessor, Dowden, who is the MP for Hertsmere, seems to come with little digital experience, having worked for a PR company before becoming a politician.

As the minister for implementation, Dowden is also responsible for ensuring departments deliver what they set out to in their single departmental plans published right before Christmas, which highlighted the need for innovation and skills. 

He is also responsible for the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), the watchdog that monitors large government projects, including many IT and technology programmes. 

The prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle has created several changes for digital.

Last week, Margot James was confirmed as the new digital minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) after Matt Hancock was promoted to secretary of state at the department. The former DCMS secretary of state, Karen Bradley, was appointed secretary of state for Northern Ireland. 

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