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article imageWhat in the world will London's Chief Digital Officer be doing?

By Karen Graham     Jul 17, 2017 in Technology
Digital transformation is taking place across the world, impacting our lives in ways we can't even begin to count. This movement is also helping us to create "smart cities." The City of London has decided a Chief Digital Officer can help this transition.
London's Mayor Sadiq Khan spoke of hiring a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) when London Tech Week was launched on June 12 this year. But actually, the mayor has been looking for someone qualified to become London's CDO since May 3, 2017, according to Cities Today.
According to the job advertisement that was posted online on May 3, Mayor Khan is looking for someone who can turn London into “the world’s leading smart city – with digital technology at the heart of making the capital an even better place to live, work and invest."
An automated Docklands Light Railway train at Heron Quays  in the Canary Wharf financial district.
An automated Docklands Light Railway train at Heron Quays, in the Canary Wharf financial district.
London is already the leading European city in digital technology
London is already rated at Number 1 in the European Digital City Index 2016. There are 40,000 digital technology companies, employing approximately 250,000 people of which more than a third have been set up in the last five years. Additionally, in the past few years, London has attracted more venture capital and created more companies valued at over $1 billion than any other European city.
England's financial capital is now more successful than at any time in its history, according to London First, and with a population nearing 10 million people, this rapid growth has created a number of challenges — with housing and transportation being a particular focus of the city's government. And added to the congestion is a very real problem with air quality.
A key issue for London and Mayor Khan is how digital transformation and the use of new technology (data analytics, mobile and embedded devices) can help the city's government to better manage some of its growth challenges, improve efficiency and support economic development.
Pie chart showns the breakdown of the tech companies in London.
Pie chart showns the breakdown of the tech companies in London.
London Government
What will London's CDO do?
Whoever gets the job will need to have a head that can accommodate the wearing many different hats, sometimes, many at once. The new CDO will have to lead London’s 26 borough councils and coordinate digital services while making public transportation more efficient, which seems to be a major issue with many of the local councils.
But, perhaps, more importantly, the CDO will have to be an enabler, able to break down barriers while getting conversations going through partnerships across the private enterprise sector, public sector stakeholders, and the wider tech community. The CDO should not be a replacement for any one business or tech company's CDO, rather he or she should complement the various initiatives and enterprises.
As for the specific role of the London CDO, number one on the list of qualifications would be the ability to provide advice on digital policies, along with digital technology expertise. And secondly, the chosen CDO would be an advocate for spreading digital transformation across the city's government.
East London Tech City is a technology district located in East London and is the third largest tech ...
East London Tech City is a technology district located in East London and is the third largest tech center in the world. It began as a cluster of web businesses initially developed around the Old Street Roundabout (pictured) in 2009.
Stephen McKay
Back in 2012, Beta News published an article on the rise of the Chief Digital Officer in many businesses and corporations. By 2012, the preceding decade had seen the rise of the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Technology Officer.
And while the CIO and CTO have had different job descriptions, depending on the work environment, the Chief Digital Officer is basically in charge of tech evolution. The CDO helps a business, corporation or in this case, a city drive growth by converting traditional "analog" businesses to digital ones using the potential of modern online technologies and data.
Whoever Mayor Khan selects for the job, it will be an exciting move, not only for the city of London but for the new CDO. Being a part of the transformation that will create a "smart city" is an exciting prospect, and the new employee will also be glad to know there is a manual available that addresses some of the issues a CDO might need to deal with.
More about cjief digital officer, analog to digital, Social media, mobile applications, smart city