Cabinet Office loses sector data function – but strengthens influence over geospatial data
The Government has transferred the data policy and governance functions of the Government Digital Service (GDS) from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
A written statement from Prime Minister Theresa May on a change in the machinery government has confirmed a move about which there has been speculation for several weeks, saying that the changes became effective on 1 April and that it would bring data policy for government and the wider economy into one place.
The transfer includes responsibility for data sharing, data ethics, open data and data governance.
It is accompanied by the responsibility for digital signatures being moved from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to DCMS, which will also jointly lead with BEIS on the relationship with the Open Data Institute, Digital Catapult and the Alan Turing Institute.
The statement says GDS, which sits inside the Cabinet Office, will continue with its other functions.
While the move has been justified by the Government as combining the work on data policy for government with that for the wider economy – an existing responsibility of DCMS – it is accompanied by the Cabinet Office strengthening its role in geospatial data policy initiatives.
It has taken on the work BEIS and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the field, and will support the work of the recently created Geospatial Data Commission, which is developing a strategy for using public sector location data to support economic growth.
The move is likely to contribute to a perception that the influence of GDS around Whitehall is in decline; and points to the increasing influence of Matt Hancock, previously a Cabinet Office minister with the digital transformation brief but now the secretary of state at DCMS.
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