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A Chief Digital Officer for all Londoners

As London Technology Week kicks off, London First, Centre for London and Bloomberg Associates have set out a paper looking at a new role in City Hall: Chief Digital Officer.

The report, A Chief Digital Officer for all Londoners: Defining and Scoping the Role, was produced in consultation with a range of business and policy leaders, and argues that the role should be focused on three themes:

  • providing policy advice and digital expertise,
  • championing a digital transformation across London government, and,
  • seeking out and sharing best practice.

Kat Hanna, research manager at Centre for London and Tim Scott, programme director, Tech and Creative at London First, explore the way the role could work.

 

A Chief Digital Officer for London

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan stood at DebateTech, the tech-focused hustings event organised by Centre for London, Tech London Advocates and techUK, and pledged the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer for London. As policy announcements go, it was a crowd pleaser, as an explicit commitment to securing London’s position as a leading digital city. The risk now is that the role will merely become a muddled dumping group for all things tech-related, from broadband, to digital skills, office space, and regulation. For the role to have impact, its scope must be clearly defined.

CDO cover

London First and Centre for London, working closely with Bloomberg Associates and in consultation with a range of business and policy leaders, have set out the main requirements of a CDO for London. We argue that the role should be focused on three themes: providing policy advice and digital expertise, championing a digital transformation across London government, and seeking out and sharing best practice.

The first requirement for the CDO should be to provide of policy advice and direction on behalf of the Mayor. This includes anticipating the impacts of disruptive technologies and supporting innovation, for example by promoting open standards and inter-operability.

The second requirement of the role is for a CDO to work across London government to find ways to support London’s growing population. This may include using open data to better plan transport infrastructure or using blockchain (a decentralised database) to register land assets. The appointment needs to be of a sufficiently senior level to ensure that initiatives relevant to the digital economy – digital jobs & growth, digital skills, connectivity and inclusion – are delivered by the appropriate directors and deputy mayors.

Finally, a London CDO must seek out and share best practice. As London Tech Week demonstrates, a London CDO will inherit an engaged tech community and a number of private and public sector organisations actively supporting the sector. In addition, London can learn from cities and organisations around the world that have used technology to help address a wide array of challenges.

To avoid duplication, the CDO should begin his or her appointment by establishing and leading a network of public and private sector CDOs, CTOs, CIOs and political leads across the London boroughs. In the longer-term, the CDO should forge such similar connections with other global cities and develop new partnerships. Just as it was London who took the lead in convening representatives from global cities to commit to a reduction in greenhouse commissions to form the C40 in 2005, an ambitious London CDO should aspire to drive best practice around the world.

This role is not one that will be fully defined overnight. But it is vital that we are clear right at about the essential elements of the job if it is to avoid being a symbolic appointment, and instead deliver valuable outcomes at City Hall.

Tim Scott, Programme Director, Tech and Creative, London First
Kat Hanna, Research Manager, Centre for London

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