DWP digital chief Prakash to leave civil service

Peers pay tribute as CDIO announces he will depart Whitehall around the end of the year

The Department for Work and Pensions’ technology leader Mayank Prakash is to leave the civil service later this year.

Prakash (pictured above) joined the DWP as chief digital and information officer four years ago. He arrived in Whitehall following a 20-year career in the technology and financial services industries, including stints at companies including Avaya, Sage, and Morgan Stanley.

He is set to leave his role – and the civil service – around the end of the year for an as-yet-unspecified post outside government.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “Mayank… has personally driven an ambitious agenda for improving the technology that supports citizens, significantly overhauling our systems, and embedding agile design and development that has been – and will continue to be – critical to our services in DWP. We would like to thank Mayank for his significant contribution and wish him all the very best for his new role.”

On Twitter, the DWP tech chief told followers said he “will miss DWP Digital and public service values”. A number of other current and former senior figures from the Whitehall digital world responded to pay tribute to Prakash’s work and lament his imminent departure.

The government’s national technology adviser Liam Maxell – who is himself shortly to depart the civil service for a role at Amazon Web Services – said: “Thank you for coming into government and making change happen. You’ve moved mountains and – just in infrastructure – saved billions now and in future spend. Money that can now go to frontline services. Big shoes to fill.”

GDS director general Kevin Cunnington said: “Congratulations on four very successful years… taking forward DWP’s transformation journey, steering the technology agenda, and championing our Women in Tech movement. All the very best.”

Cunnington’s predecessor as head of GDS, Stephen Foreshew-Cain, claimed that Prakash’s loss was “sad news indeed” for the civil service – although admitted the two “may not have always seen eye to eye”.

“But you were a force for good in leading the digital transformation of DWP,” Foreshew-Cain added. “The impact of your time there will be felt for years to come.”

In a statement, Prakash said: “It has been a privilege to lead the digitisation of DWP. I will miss working with inspirational colleagues passionate about delivering services to 22 million people. Working with brilliant civil servants who care about giving back to society has been a memorable and enjoyable learning experience. I am proud of the many achievements of colleagues and grateful to industry leaders for their partnership to transform the UK’s largest IT estate beyond recognition.”

He added: “I look forward to tracking the future digitisation of DWP’s services with keen interest and will follow with pride the great work of digital specialists at DWP.”

Talking to PublicTechnology last year, Prakash claimed that instilling a DevOps approach has been key to help the department break out of the constraints of hierarchical structures and reliance on external suppliers.

“By adopting a DevOps approach, we’re moving away from building to specification, to digital being at the core of how we solve challenges iteratively for users of our services, at a higher pace,” he said.

Prakash also revealed that the DWP is now looking to accelerate its transformation via the use of emerging technologies. 

“The big prize for us is freeing up colleagues’ time for interventions which our customers need – such as supporting vulnerable customers,” he said. “We’re using neural networks to look for patterns in the way customers access job-seeking support, and machine learning algorithms are helping us use open data to improve policy design and operational processes.”

Following the revelation of Maxwell’s departure last month, the DWP digital and IT chief has become the latest in a number of high-profile exits from the Whitehall digital scene this summer. In July, the head of GOV.UK Neil Williams announced he will be leaving government to join Croydon Council as chief digital officer, a role in which he will begin work on 15 October. 

Meanwhile the Department of Education is also currently in need of a new tech leader, after its chief digital officer – and co-founder of GDS – Mark O’Neill announced earlier this month that he is leaving the civil service at the end of September.

Sam Trendall

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