London looks to become “the world’s leading smart city” with chief digital officer role

Sadiq Kahn, the Mayor of London, has announced that the city is for the first time recruiting for a chief digital officer, as part of a bid to become the world’s leading smart city.

The new position was announced in a tweet today by Khan, who linked to the official advert for the £106,952 a year job.

“The Mayor has decided to appoint London’s first Chief Digital Officer to help him make London the world’s leading smart city,” the advert says. “As London’s CDO, working in the Mayor’s Office, you will convene GLA officials, the Smart London Board, local authorities and the technology sectors to encourage collaboration and adoption of common standards around data and service transformation, to drive the development of smart city technology, and to build London’s reputation as the city that the world looks to for leadership in urban innovation.”

The decision has been met with approval from many of the city’s digital-focused companies, with the announcement being seen as a positive step in recognising the need for further technological advancements.

“The Mayor is right to highlight that transforming the capital into a ‘smart city’ is a critical need in the coming years,” said Dale Lovell, chief digital officer and UK managing director of ADYOULIKE, an advertising technology company.

“London’s incoming CDO will be tasked with radically transforming how the city does business and the role will be focused on helping to pioneer new technology sectors, encouraging collaboration and adopting common standards around data and service transformation.”

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, during the unveiling of the world’s first hydrogen-powered bus in 2016. Image courtesy of Martin Hoscik / Shutterstock.com

The role is a relatively new concept for cities, with New York among one of the few world cities to have the official position, which is currently held by Sree Sreenivasan. Even among companies the role remains a fairly recent development.

“Ten years ago the job of chief digital officer simply didn’t exist. Even as late as 2013, there were only 500 CDOs across the globe. The ‘digital’ aspect of organisations was also something that was split across multiple people,” explained Lovell.

“However, with the world increasingly adopting a ‘connected’ lifestyle, with little downtime from their digital devices, the role is now essential, not only for companies but also for government and regional authorities.”

However, with Brexit fast approaching and London likely to need to reposition itself on the global market, the role is likely to prove to be immensely challenging for the person appointed.

“The single most important factor for the success of this role will be the CDO’s ability to be flexible. With the uncertainty of Brexit far from over and an environment of ever changing technology, London’s CDO must be able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances while putting London’s best interests first,” said Lovell.

“The next ten years will see a rapid digitalisation and automation of many key services; with public expectation around the services they receive increasingly built around digital infrastructure. It’s a big challenge to change London, but one that needs to happen now.”

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