London’s first CDO will play a leading role in realising the Mayor’s ambition to make London the world’s smartest city, ensuring that the capital’s status as a global tech hub helps transform the way public services are designed and delivered, making them more accessible, efficient and responsive to the needs of Londoners. The appointment fulfils a key manifesto commitment made by the Mayor.
He joins the Mayor’s team following work at GovTech accelerator Public Group, advising start-ups on the growing market in local public services, and was previously Head of Policy & Public Affairs for the video games industry’s trade body, Ukie – where he ran a ‘Next Gen Skills’ campaign to get coding back on the curriculum.
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Theo brings more than 20 years of experience in technology and digital transformation in both the public and private sector. In his role as cabinet member for finance, technology and growth at Camden Council, Blackwell has established Camden as London’s leading digital borough through its use of public data – and this year they received national recognition as Digital Leaders ‘Council of the year’.
Theo also sits on the Advisory Board of Digital Leaders and is a director of Camden Town Unlimited, a Business Improvement District which pioneered new start-up incubation in ‘meanwhile’ space.
Theo will work closely with the Mayor’s 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.
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Theo will also promote manifesto ambitions around pan-London collaboration on connectivity, digital inclusion, cyber-security and open data. He will also focus on scoping work for the London Office for Technology & Innovation that was announced by the Mayor at London Tech Week.
London already 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 capital is also racing ahead with new technologies, using it for ticketing and contactless on the transport network, while the London Datastore is an open resource with vast amounts of data about all areas of the city, and tech start-ups have used this open data to create innovative new apps.
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.
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“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.”
Theo 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.”
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 Blackwell is good news for Londoners. The smart use of new digital technologies can improve the lives of people living in or visiting London.
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. “
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Councillor Claire Kober, Chair of London Councils, said: “The appointment of London’s first Chief Digital Officer fills an important role providing needed digital leadership for London’s public services. Theo will bring his longstanding experience working with other borough leaders, which I think is critical as we develop new approaches to developing, procuring and scaling the best digital solutions across the capital.”
Robin Knowles, Founder and CEO of Digital Leaders, said: “Theo Blackwell has huge experience and is a fabulous appointment as the capital’s first Chief Digital Officer. He will do a great job for London.”
Doteveryone founder, Baroness Martha Lane Fox, said: “Digital leadership is a major challenge for the public sector, as the new chief digital officer for London Theo’s track-record delivering real change in local government and his work in the tech sector brings real experience to this role.”
Mike Flowers, First Chief Analytics Officer for New York City and Chief Analytics Officer at Enigma Technologies, said: “Theo is a pragmatic visionary with that rare combination of tech savvy and human focus that the task ahead of him requires. I congratulate Mayor Khan on his decision to trust him with this critical role, and I’m very happy for the residents of London whose lives will be improved by the better use of data and technology by their government. Theo gets results.”
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