London Mayor Sadiq Khan has fulfilled his manifesto pledge to appoint the capital’s first Chief Digital Officer, announcing that Theo Blackwell will take up the position.
Blackwell is well known in public sector circles, and will play a leading role in the Mayor’s ambition to make London the world’s smartest city, focusing on transforming the way that public services are designed and delivered, “making them more accessible, efficient and responsive to the needs of Londoners”.
Blackwell was most recently working at GovTech accelerator Public Group, advising start-ups on the growing market in local public services, and was previously head of policy and public affairs for the video games industry’s trade body, Ukie - where he ran a campaign to get coding back on the curriculum.
He has worked as a cabinet member for finance, technology and growth at Camden Council, where he backed the borough’s pioneering use of public data. Blackwell also sits on the Advisory Board of Digital Leaders and is a director of Camden Town Unlimited, a Business Improvement District.
Commenting on his new role, Blackwell said:
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. 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.
According to the Mayor’s office, Blackwell will work closely with the Smart London Board to develop a new Smart London Plan, and 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.
He will also promote manifesto ambitious around pan-London collaboration on connectivity, digital inclusion, cyber security and open data. As CDO, Blackwell will also focus on scopiing work for the recently announced London Office for Technology and Innovation.
London has more than 47,000 digital technology companies, employing approximately 240,000 people. 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.
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.
Whilst, Antony Walker, Deputy CEO of techUK, said:
techUK has long argued that London needed a Chief Digital Officer to ensure that London makes the best possible use of new digital technologies. The appointment of Theo Blackwell is good news for Londoners. The smart use of new digital technologies can improve the lives of people living in or visiting London.
Theo Blackwell brings a deep understanding of both the opportunities ahead and the challenges of implementing new digital technologies to address the city’s most pressing problems. This appointment is an important step forward to London being at the forefront of tech innovation to create smart places and communities where citizens want to live, work and thrive.