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August 4, 2015

GDS chief’s exit prompts questions over government-as-a-platform

Executive director of digital Mike Bracken will quit in September after handover.

By Jimmy Nicholls

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is set to lose one of its founding fathers as its executive director of digital Mike Bracken steps down from his role in September after four and a half years in government.

His departure comes mere months after his promotion to chief data officer for government in March, with his tenure interrupted by the general election only two months later.

As such the move raised speculation about the future of the government’s digital policy, with questions particularly focused on the government-as-a-platform model that Bracken pioneered, which allowed departments to draw on a shared pool of IT resources.

Jeremy Heywood, cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, said: "Under [Mike’s] leadership the UK is now genuinely considered to be a world leader in digital government.

"Mike has also done a great job building an enduring digital capability within the civil service, helping to attract world class digital talent into government, both in GDS and in departments."

Following Bracken’s announcement the Cabinet Office, which supports the prime minister, said the executive director would lay out plans with civil service chief executive John Manzoni for the future of digital government.

"The new generation of digital and tech talent that Mike has helped to bring, not just into GDS, but across government, will lead the next phases – government-a- a-platform, Common Technology Services, and redefining the government’s role on data," it said.

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Following the general election Whitehall is also being shaken up by the Single Departmental Plans, which departments must draw up before a spending review scheduled for November.

Manzoni has defended the plans as a means of integrating decisions and functions across departments, with a likely impact upon shared IT resources.

"This means that the technology, commercial, workforce, and similar enablers aren’t an after-thought but instead are helping to deliver the outcomes the departments need, and sharing ideas across government," he wrote online.

Commenting on his departure, Bracken said he left "full of optimism for the future" and "certain" that many of the reforms he had championed had improved people’s lives.

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