Public Services > Central Government

Industry welcomes Home Office data and digital unit merger

Neil Merrett Published 22 July 2016

Department to bring together its separate digital and technology approaches under the leadership of CTO Sarah Wilkinson


Industry association techUK has welcomed the Home Office’s decision to merge its digital and technology units into a new combined body that will set out standardised approaches to information management and innovation programmes.

Naureen Khan, techUK public services director, said the creation of the new Home Office Digital, Data and Technology (HO DDaT) unit was a “forward thinking move” that was expected to allow for a more coherent approach to transformation.

Home Office chief technology officer (CTO) Sarah Wilkinson will now become chief digital, data and technology officer in a combined role for the department, according to techUK. 

Kahn argued that Wilkinson during her time at the Home Office had actively engaged with the technology industry, which looked forward to continued work with the department.

“Tech is critical to the Home Office’s transformation journey. Government is making good progress on its goal to attract private sector leaders like Sarah to drive transformation. We welcome this move which should lead to a more integrated approach and offer a huge opportunity to better harness data," she said.

In a statement, the department said that the combined unit came into operation on July 18, and reflected ongoing efforts to transform its operations to provide better services and respond to “changing threats”.

“Home Office Digital and Home Office Technology have delivered important work in the past few years – including online passport renewal and the rolling out biometric residence permits and biometric travel documents,” said a spokesperson for the department.

“The two teams already work incredibly closely. By formally bringing them together we create an even stronger unit. It will bring an injection of new skills and approaches to both functions, will allow a front-to-back digital design approach and enable us to integrate data more fully into everything we do.”

Responding to the change, Jessica Figueras, chief analyst at Kable said, “For a large, complex department like the Home Office, it’s unwise to run technology, digital and data as separate siloes as the three briefs are interdependent. Bringing the roles together – as is the case at HMRC - would be a good move."

Figueras noted that the Home Office has struggled with a number of large and complex programmes, leading to a need for better oversight of the links between technology, digital and data in order to get its priorities in order.

"Brexit will only add to the complexity, since borders and immigration will be key negotiating issues. The Investigatory Powers Bill, should it successfully pass the Lords into statute later this year, could also add new demands for data sharing projects into the mix,” she said.

Wilkinson joined the Home Office early in December 2015 where she succeeded Denise McDonagh in the CTO role.  At the same time, Norman Driskell was unveiled as the department’s first ever chief digital officer (CDO).

More to follow.

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