Kevin Cunnington is to step down from his role as director general of the Government Digital Service (GDS), the Cabinet Office has announced.
He is due to move in August to become DG of the new International Government Service (IGS), while Alison Pritchard, currently director for EU exit and transformation, will take on the lead at the GDS on an interim basis.
The Cabinet Office is beginning a recruitment process to fill the role on a permanent basis.
The IGS is an initiative under development by the Cabinet Office, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Trade and Development. It is understood that the details of its role and activities are still being worked out, but it will be broadly tasked with promoting the work of UK government services, including the digital sector, across the world.
Cunnington (pictured) commented: “I’m thrilled to be taking up this new role and see it as a fantastic opportunity to build on our achievements at GDS.
“I’m looking forward to promoting the work of the UK Government and exploring how the UK can provide government-to-government services, including digital, on a global stage.”
John Manzoni, chief executive of the Civil Service, said: “Kevin is well qualified to take on his new role as head of IGS. Under his leadership, GDS has matured into an established function, responsible for accelerating digital transformation right across government and the wider public sector. The Civil Service now has more technical capability than ever before, while the UK is consistently ranked among the world’s most digitally enabled governments.
“Kevin leaves GDS in a strong place, ready for his successor to take digital government to the next level.”
Cunnington, who was previously head of transformation at the Department for Work and Pensions, stepped into the GDS job three years ago in a surprise move that involved the sudden departure of his predecessor Stephen Foreshew-Cain.
It followed rumours of opposition throughout Whitehall to the work of GDS, especially in its development of digital platforms to be used throughout central government. It was also seen in part as a reaction to the earlier record of the organisation which, while led by Mike Bracken, had developed a reputation for an abrasive approach in dealing with Whitehall departments.
While it has recorded achievements in several areas during Cunnington’s time in charge - such as the increasing take-up of its Pay and Notify platforms and the setting up of the GovWifi network - its reputation has been severely dented by the slow progress of its flagship GOV.UK Verify programme. In recent months this has come under sharp criticism from the National Audit Office and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0