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UK Government plans to hire both a chief data officer and chief digital information officer

The UK Government is continuing to press ahead with plans to hire a chief data officer, despite recently advertising for a newly created role of chief digital information officer. 

The two roles were confirmed during parliamentary questions last week, with Simon Hart, the Cabinet Office minister with oversight of the Government Digital Service (GDS), noting that the new role will not replace the chief data officer role. That role has remained unfilled, despite the government having first committed to appointing a chief data officer back in 2017. 

According to Hart, while the two roles are similar, the chief digital information officer will be responsible for shaping and delivering innovation and transformation strategies, and will be a more senior role – at second permanent secretary level. Meanwhile, the chief data officer will be responsible for delivering on the agenda set by the chief digital information officer. 

Government departments to share more data

In addition to the new roles, Hart also announced that 13 of 17 Whitehall departments had agreed to share web analytics data with the Government Digital Service. This should help GDS better monitor the performance of the website, and ensure that its functionality is in-tune with what the UK public expect. 

The plans have already attracted controversy, with BuzzFeed revealing that the government was looking to match the anonymised data of web users provided by Google Analytics with personal data from GDS’ Verify digital identity system to target Brexit messaging to citizens as they navigate the site.

Reacting to a question from Mary Creagh MP, Hart said that the UK government plans to improve the performance of the site using the anonymised data, and that the memoranda of understanding signed by the Whitehall departments with the GDS stipulate how the data can be handled. 

So far the departments to sign up to the scheme include: 

  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), 
  • The Department for Education (DfE)
  • The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU)
  • The Department for Transport (DfT)
  • The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC)
  • The Home Office
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • HM Treasury (HMT)
  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)
  • The Ministry of Defence (MoD)
  • The Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
  • The Department for International Trade (DfID) 

The departments still yet to sign up include: 

  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
  • The Cabinet Office (CO) 
  • The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
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