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Government still plans to appoint chief data officer


The Government has confirmed that it plans to appoint both a chief digital information officer and a chief data officer by next year.

Simon Hart, the Cabinet Office minister with oversight of the Government Digital Service (GDS), clarified the intention in answers to parliamentary questions last week.

He told Jon Trickett MP that the newly created role of chief digital information officer – which was advertised last month – will not replace the unfilled position of chief data officer.

This is despite the long delay in making the latter appointment, with the Government having first committed to the move in its Transformation Strategy, published in 2017. It is an element of its broad plan to make better use of data in public services.

Hart also told Jo Platt MP that the chief digital information officer will be responsible for shaping and delivering innovation and transformation strategies, while the chief data officer will work with person to deliver the agenda. This reflects the seniority given to the digital role, which will be at second permanent secretary level.

Departmental MoUs

The minister has also indicated that GDS has agreed on memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with a dozen Whitehall departments for data sharing as part of its cross-tracking of behaviour on the GOV.UK website.

In response to a question from Mary Creagh MP, he said the MoUs set out the terms of the GDS project to develop an end to end, anonymised view of how people interact with government online. They outline the responsibilities of the bodies and GDS in a number of areas, including handling the relevant data to prevent unauthorised access, loss, misuse, modification or disclosure.

So far 12 of 16 departments have signed the MoUs, while four are still working points of detail: the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Cabinet Office, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Hart added that the memoranda will be regularly update in line with improvements in digital technology and best practice in data and privacy standards. Also, GDS aims to publish the document “in due course”.

Image by Clay Gilliland, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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