Editorial

Government wants to hire a new IT czar with more power than being head of GDS

Ad been placed for a new high-power role of leading all of the UK central government’s 17,000 digital, data and technology professionals

Posted 19 September 2019 by

A role has been identified for a new Chief Digital Information Officer (CDIO) to drive digital transformation across the machinery of the UK state.

The job is also going to be at a level in the UK civil service we’ve never seen for a technology job before – Second Permanent Secretary level, the most senior bureaucratic role in a UK Whitehall Department.

They’ll also be on a confirmed salary of £180,000.

The eventual winner will seemingly have a remit even bigger than that of the head of Whitehall’s existing centralised IT function, the Government Digital Service (GDS), as they will report directly to the Chief Executive of the Civil Service, John Manzoni, and that role – currently held by Alison Pritchard – already nominally includes acting as Head of Function for Digital, Data and Technology. (NB, being head of GDS is also a job grade below that of Second Permanent Secretary level – Director General.)

The news comes via a Cabinet Office recruitment advertisment that states,

As the official representative for Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) on DDaT  (Digital, Data and Technology) issues, including internationally, the Government Chief Digital Information Officer will have an established international profile and be respected as a senior thought leader across the profession, with a strong track record for delivery in complex systems.

The GCDIO will lead HMG’s 17,000 strong DDaT community. You will be responsible for shaping and delivering HMG’s innovation and transformation strategies to overhaul government’s legacy IT systems, strengthen our cyber security, improve capability, and ensure government can better leverage data and emerging technologies to design and deliver citizen-centric services that enhance HMG’s reputation as the world’s most digitally-advanced government.

Speaking at a London techUK conference this week, Manzoni expanded on the definition of what this role will be:

“This is one of the more complex and larger functional leader roles, so it is entirely appropriate it is put at a second permanent secretary level. It is a step up… With these functional leaders you have to be very wise, very experienced, very powerful and never use the power. They have to be the people who can convene and the departmental CDIOs and convene from government how we move the digital transformation strategy forwards.”

Manzoni and The Cabinet Office want to be getting to the shortlist stage by mid-November, with an appointment announcement expected by early December.