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UK's Department of Fun seeks data strategy head – experience not needed

Data, digital or tech knowledge 'not essential' for £66,665 role

The UK government appears to be under the impression that knowledge of data policy or the tech sector isn't a pre-requisite to become the head of data strategy in its digital department.

A job ad for the role – posted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last week with a closing date of 22 April (saved for posterity here) – stated the candidate will be responsible for data strategy across government.

As part of this, the newly minted data bod will have to design, build and lead a team to "deliver a data strategy that is ambitious, deliverable, coherent and innovative". There is also mention of setting policies for data in the economy, and the use of data in government.

However, DCMS doesn't appear to think the new recruit – who would pull in a salary of up to £66,665 – needs to have any actual experience of the field they're going to be tasked with overseeing.

"Knowledge and experience of digital and data policy and/or the tech sector is desirable but not essential," the ad stated.

Which is perhaps why another key responsibility will be for the head of data strategy to be able to convene experts across industry and government to help develop the strategy, presumably so they can help fill in the blanks.

The job ad comes after the government earlier this month shifted responsibility for data from the Government Digital Service to DCMS, in what was widely seen as a power grab from a department now overseen by one-time Minister for the Cabinet Office – the dodgy app star Matt Hancock.

This put DCMS in charge of data sharing, data ethics, open data and data governance – and is understood to involve transferring GDS staff who worked on data to DCMS.

On the face of it, bringing data under one roof seems sensible, especially as DCMS is the sponsor of the Data Protection Bill making its way through parliament.

But – in contrast to GDS – DCMS is more known for policy than delivery, and the move splits off a chunk of the civil service's digital, data and technology profession, which was only formalised at the end of 2016 and is still a work in progress.

Certainly, any apparent logic failed to pacify the govtech Twitterati and op-ed writers, who were quick to brand it the beginning of the end for GDS (for real this time). Former GDS boss Mike Bracken wrote that the move would make government "a little bit slower, more siloed, harder to reform and more complex".

And so offering up senior roles in the newly formed data division without calling for knowledge of digital, data or the tech sector seems a red rag to a bull. ®

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