Ruli Pennington - Talking Local Government podcast producer @CLGdotPOD executive producer @CLGdotTV. Passionate about better public services, devolution, chess, malt whisky, women's football.


Chief Digital Officer announces priorities for London's digital future


© Pug Girl, London, November 2013

Just over a month after his appointment Theo Blackwell has laid out his top three priorities for transforming London into a smart city.

Appointed in August by Mayor Sadiq Khan, Theo Blackwell, London's first Chief Digital Officer (CDO), has wasted no time in unveiling his top three priorities to achieve his vision of London's digital future. Speaking at the UK Smart Cities Index 2017 in London, he presented a collaborative, digital vision for London.

Firstly, Blackwell aims to create a strategy that is well aligned with the strategic objectives of the Greater London Authority and the city's 32 borough councils. His second priority is to stimulate collaboration between authorities and create a "coalition of the willing". Thirdly, he wishes to push this collaboration beyond authorites and include other major institutions within the strategy, such as education and the arts.

Clearly, it is collaboration that Blackwell sets as a top priority for London's digital future.

"The main challenge we have is how do we get London to collaborate better. London is a real leader in some ways, but the governance piece still needs to be done," argued Blackwell.

To achieve this, Blackwell has has stated that the cities digital strategy will be built around identifying the needs of individual boroughs and public service providers. This is rather than implementing a strategy that is handed down from City Hall. Only by implementing a strategy that takes individual borough needs into consideration can collaboration be achieved. 

"I think rather than saying ‘here is some IT back office why don’t all 32 of you work together’, that has changed to it starting where the need is,” Blackwell added.

The focus of London's digital transformation now, argued Blackwell, needs to be in areas where their benefit to the population are less obvious, in order to create a truly smart city.

"Some areas of digital transformation have been quite easy. In terms of customer services, we have rolled out all sorts of things that have improved the lives of citizens and given better value for money...If you get towards the more complex areas, we come to the extra challenge of how these programmes explain what they do. Part of digital leadership is getting involved in more people-based services like social care and children’s services, and trying to [standardise] the language and the digital way of thinking.”


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