Theo Blackwell has been appointed as the capital’s first ever Chief Digital Officer (CDO), finally putting a halt to the CDO search which was a key manifesto commitment made by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Blackwell will be charged with retaining London’s status as a global tech hub and helping transform the way public services are designed and delivered, making them more accessible, efficient and responsive to the needs of Londoners.
The new CDO, who has over 20 years’ experience under his belt in technology and digital transformation, will work closely with the Mayor’s Smart London Board to develop a new Smart London Plan.
Blackwell will play a central role in building collaboration across London’s boroughs, and businesses, to drive the digital transformation of public services, as well as supporting the spread of innovation through common technology standards and better data-sharing.
Work across London boroughs should come easy to London’s new digital chief, with Blackwell having previously been a cabinet member for finance, technology and growth at Camden Council. While in this role, he established Camden as London’s leading digital borough through its use of public data, with the council this year receiving national recognition as Digital Leaders ‘Council of the year’.
“The new Chief Digital Officer post is an amazing opportunity to make our capital even more open to innovation, support jobs and investment and make our public services more effective,” said Blackwell.
“The pace of change over the next decade requires public services to develop a stronger relationship with the tech sector. Our purpose is to fully harness London’s world-class potential to make our public services faster and more reliable at doing things we expect online, but also adaptable enough to overcome the capital’s most complex challenges.”
Prior to the CDO appointment, Blackwell worked at GovTech accelerator Public Group, advising start-ups on the growing market in local public services. The CDO also was previously Head of Policy & Public Affairs for the video games industry’s trade body, Ukie – where he ran a ‘Next Gen Skills’ campaign to get coding back on the curriculum.
Past experience with startups and business growth should stand Blackwell in good stead with how the London tech scene is expected to boom in the coming years – it is forecast that the number of tech companies will increase by a third and a further 44,500 jobs will have been created by 2026.
With this forecast growth, digital inclusion will be top of the agenda for the CDO, as well as promoting manifesto ambitions around pan-London collaboration on connectivity, digital inclusion, cyber-security and open data. He will also focus on scoping work for the London Office for Technology & Innovation that was announced by the Mayor at London Tech Week.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I am determined to make London the world’s leading ‘smart city’ with digital technology and data at the heart of making our capital a better place to live, work and visit. We already lead in digital technology, data science and innovation and I want us to make full use of this in transforming our public services for Londoners and the millions of visitors to our great city.
“I am delighted to appoint Theo Blackwell as London’s first Chief Digital Officer, and I know he will use his experience working in the technology sector and developing public services to improve the lives of all Londoners.”