London’s first chief digital officer Theo Blackwell tells the Public Sector Show he aims to make the capital the world’s leading smart city
What will be your key priorities over the coming year?
The mayor Sadiq Khan and I are determined to make London the world’s leading smart city with digital technology and data at the heart of making it an even better place to live, work and visit.
I’m committed to ensuring we fully harness London’s potential to make public services faster and more reliable at doing the things we expect online, but also adaptable enough to overcome the capital’s most complex challenges. My first priority will be building digital leadership by developing a new Smart London Plan, strengthening digital foundations of London public services so we can innovate and work with the govtech sector, and acting as a digital ambassador, highlighting the immense innovation across London.
Are London’s boroughs innovative enough when it comes to digital?
London’s boroughs are doing great work in this area already, for example the London Counter-Fraud Hub is being used by boroughs to combat procurement deception and council tax evasion, while the Local Government Digital Service Standard is a more common approach for boroughs to deliver and design digital public services. Many boroughs have a track record for innovation, Camden in data or Greenwich for the internet of things; others are setting up shared services or laying out ambitious innovation programmes.
My first priority will be building digital leadership by developing a new Smart London Plan
We aim to go a step further building collaboration across London’s public services. London councils and the mayor agreed to co-fund a study to explore how to improve the ways new digital and data-driven services are shared and scaled, to collaborate on new innovation challenges, and finally address common or London-wide policy challenges through digital technology. A consortium of FutureGov, Arup and Stance is running a scoping study for a London Office of Technology and Innovation function. By the end of 2017, we will propose a new way of collaborating across London public services.
How do you hope to help London’s public sector take better advantage of their position as Europe’s tech capital?
On behalf of the mayor, I’ll be working to build support for and take-up of innovative technology and data-led approaches to service delivery and public engagement, as well as fostering partnerships between the public, private and community sectors. London is already a world leader 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 our millions of visitors. I will be working to develop even closer and more productive relationships with our first-class tech sector. This will include addressing key challenges such as public sector procurement, connectivity, cybersecurity, access to talent, regulation and the provision of affordable workspaces.
Could London really become the world’s leading smart city?
London is already home to more than 40,000 digital technology companies, employing almost 250,000 people and we expect another 12,500 companies will be created by 2025. This gives us a fantastic foundation for our ambitions, along with London’s incredible knowledge base and talent pool. The role of the chief digital officer will be to help create strong foundations so we can design, buy and scale the best ideas from the tech community.