Government hopes to announce new chief digital officer ‘very shortly’

Process to recruit tech supremo is now in its ‘final stages’
Photo: Dafne Cholet/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

By Sam Trendall

13 Jun 2022

The process of recruiting a new government chief digital officer is now in its final stages and Whitehall leaders hope to announce an appointment imminently.

The post was advertised in February, with applications closing on 18 March. In an “indicative timetable” set out in the candidate information pack, final panel interviews were pencilled in for the last week of April.

Alex Chisholm, civil service chief operating officer and permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office, is part of the five-member panel.

"Great progress" has been made on the hiring process for the GCDO position – a newly created post that will represent “the most senior digital, data and technology leader in the UK government” – Chisholm said.

“We're not quite ready to announce, but the competition is in its final stages, and we hope to have good news on that very shortly," he told CSW's sister title PublicTechnology.

The role will sit within the Central Digital and Data Office and comes with a salary of £190,000. Once a candidate has been appointed, it is expected that the CDDO’s incumbent executive director, Joanna Davinson, will depart her post.

The current recruitment process marks the third time in less than 30 months that government has sought to hire a new leader to work across Whitehall.

In September 2019, the position of government chief digital and information officer was advertised but, ultimately, never filled. Less than a year on from that – and with an extra £20,000 added to the salary – a new advert was published for a vacancy as government chief digital officer.

Once again, no one was appointed to this post and, in January 2021, it was announced that the government would instead create the CDDO. Although she did not take on the title, Davinson’s appointment as the organisation’s leader came instead of the planned recruitment of the GCDO.

Working alongside her since then has been Paul Willmott – chief digital adviser for toy company Lego – who was appointed as chair of the CDDO, an unpaid non-executive position requiring about half a day of work per week.

Earlier this year it emerged that Willmott was “identified as the outstanding candidate” during the previous attempt to recruit a GCDO. But, according to evidence provided to a parliamentary committee, the Lego exec “was committed to his current employer”.

This time around Willmott joins Chisholm on the interview panel for the GCDO post, alongside Ministry of Justice chief digital and information officer Gina Gill, and Mark Denney – a long-time senior IT executive in the financial services sector who spent a year as interim digital leader of HMRC. The seniority of the GCDO position means that a civil service commissioner, in this case Jane Burgess, is required to serve as chair of the panel.

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister title PublicTechnology, where this story first appeared

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