© iStock/decisiveimages
© iStock/decisiveimages

The government is recruiting a Chief Digital Information Officer to oversee the digital, data and technology (DDaT) function across Whitehall. The postholder will be the first digital leader in government to hold a permanent secretary-level position – the most senior grading in the civil service.

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden announced that he had created the position at the Sprint 19 Government Digital Service (GDS) conference in London on 19 September.

"This will be a role at permanent secretary level – the first time, I believe, someone at permanent secretary level has been appointed to lead a function," he said.

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"That's a signal of how important we think effective, integrated online government is. Their job will be to ensure that we deliver cross-government strategies for transformation, data, cyber security, and innovation.

"They will design and implement standards which improve delivery outcomes, reduce risk and enable value for money in departments. Crucially, they will ensure that we are equipping government departments with the skills needed to reform, develop and thrive."

Filling the role

The CDIO will be responsible for shaping and delivering the government's innovation and transformation strategies, overhauling its legacy IT systems, strengthening its cyber security, improving capability, and leverage data and emerging technologies to design and deliver citizen-centric services. The postholder will work closely with Dowden and report to civil service chief executive John Manzoni.

The appointee will take direct accountability for around 800 DDaT professionals in the Government Digital Service (GDS). The inclusion of this duty has called into question the future of GDS Interim Director-General Alison Pritchard, as her position previously included responsibility for the DDaT function.

The government had originally advertised the newly created position in April, but closed the job posting before making an appointment. The role has now been elevated to a permanent secretary-level position, with a salary that has increased from £149,000 to £180,000.

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The recruitment process is surprisingly short for such a high-profile position. The closing date for applications is 7 October. Assessment weeks will commence on 11 and 18 November before final interviews take place on 29 November.

The job description says the chosen candidate 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".

"We're looking for someone world-class, with the skills and experience to up the pace of transformation and be your champion within Whitehall," said Dowden.