Tony Blair’s e-envoy was responsible for the first wave of digital government services in the UK
Andrew Pinder, who as Tony Blair’s ‘e-envoy’ was charged with putting all UK government services online, has died at the age of 69.
A notice in The Times today says that Pinder died peacefully at home on 9 April after a short illness. His funeral will take place on Saturday 22 April.
Pinder was catapulted into the heart of government when Blair’s initial choice for the role of e-envoy, Alex Allan, stepped down in 2000 after only months in the job. The post was created to emulate Bill Clinton’s appointment of Ira Magaziner to encourage e-commerce at the height of the 1990s dotcom mania, and to further the cause of what was then widely described as 'e-government'.
Taking the blame
Pinder was recruited from Citibank which he joined after 18 years at Inland Revenue and his brief was threefold: to make Britain the best place in the world for e-commerce, to provide internet access for all and to coordinate Whitehall’s IT, with the goal of ‘e-enabling’ all government services by 2005. Inevitably it was the last part of the brief that attracted the most publicity, with Pinder - usually unfairly - taking the blame for many of the Blair government’s hubristic IT policy failures.
In his four years in the role, Pinder had to build a team in the Cabinet Office and cajole other Whitehall departments into joining the e-agenda. His tenure saw the launch of Directgov, intended to be the first one stop e-government portal and the Government Gateway secure sign-on system.
Privately he expressed frustrations at some of the targets imposed by ministerial partners, including that of requiring every single government service - including, notoriously, applications for permission to be buried at sea - to be e-enabled. He was a supporter of Labour’s ill fated national identity card, albeit with reservations about privacy and the belief that citizens had certain rights to anonymity.
After declining to renew his contract in 2004 Pinder returned to private consultancy and a wide range of posts including chairmanship of education IT organisation Becta. A recent appointment was as chairman of the board of Market Operator Service Limited (MOSL), set up to deliver IT systems to support water market reforms.
He was married twice and had two daughters and one stepson.
When asked for his wish list gadget in 2002 - long before the era of the app - Pinder said: “I’m absolutely up for a device that's linked into the Good Pub Guide so I know where the nearest decent pub is!”
Image courtesy of MOSL