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Government to set up digital, data and technology sub-board

04/05/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Government is planning to create a sub-board for digital, data and technology within the Civil Service Board.

Joanna Davinson

Joanna Davinson, executive director of the recently created Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) within the Cabinet Office, referred to the plan during an online presentation organised by the Institute for Government Thinktank.

She said it will work with the CDDO to boost the efforts around central government to bring data, policy and operations together.

“We need to get a lot better at communicating and engaging with policy and operational colleagues,” Davinson said. “There are some formal things we can do to help.

“We are establishing new sub-board for the Civil Service Board, the DDaT sub-board which will be chaired by Paul (Willmott, chair of the CDDO) and Jim Harra, permanent secretary at HMRC. It will be a perm sec level board, the pinnacle of our governance, and it’s really important that we use it to get the message through about the need to get policy, ops and tech together.”

Willmott said a shortlist of members for the sub-board is currently being compiled with efforts to ensure it provides a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.

“I’m a huge fan of diversity in every sense,” he said. “All the research shows it leads to better outcomes.

“This week we’ve been shortlisting and doing it to build a diversity of backgrounds, thought and gender. There is no template for this situation. We are learning things from other national governments but this is a unique situation so it needs fresh thinking.”

The Civil Service Board is responsible for the strategic leadership of the Civil Service.

Priority plans

Davinson outlined the priorities of the CDDO as dealing with series of familiar issues in digital government: improvements in people’s experience of interacting with government online; making data more accessible and sharable; modernising the technology infrastructure with a focus on hybrid cloud, modular architectures and reducing the legacy debt; aligning project delivery, funding and sourcing strategies to support agile working; and helping to build digital talent in government.

“Unless we build our talent it will not be sustainable,” she said.

“There are two aspects to this. One is what do we do for the DDaT profession; the other is what do we need to do build capability within the wider Civil Service to interact with digital.”

As part of the latter, she said it is necessary to reduce the use of jargon around DDaT to help other civil servants feel they can engage with the specialists more easily.

Willmott also emphasised the need to strengthen the understanding between digital and data specialists and ministers and policy makers.

“So we are stepping up engagement across the Civil Service and government more broadly,” he said.  “We’re reaching out one-to-one basis to relevant civil servants and discussing if we can introduce new training programmes in digital and data, recognising that this will be part of the way government operates in the future.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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