Fiona Deans to take over as leader of GDS

Written by Sam Trendall on 24 August 2020 in News

Chief operating officer to take interim charge as director general Alison Pritchard joins ONS

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

Fiona Deans is to take over as interim director general of the Government Digital Service, with incumbent boss Alison Pritchard to move a role at the Office for National Statistics.

Deans (pictured above) joined GDS in 2018 as chief operating officer – when she also replaced Pritchard, who had been moved from the COO position to a role heading up the organisation’s Brexit work. Deans joined from software firm Barbour Logic and, earlier in her career, was a founding employee of digital cinema services company Arts Alliance Media.

She will take over as interim director general of GDS next month when Pritchard is to leave to take on a post at the ONS as deputy national statistician and director general for data capability.

The upcoming promotion of Deans to the GDS top job was announced in a blog post by Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm.

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“I’m absolutely certain she will steer us well through the months ahead,” he added. “I will be writing again in the next few weeks with further detail on the process for recruiting a permanent successor.

Chisholm, who also serves chief operating officer of the civil service, commended the contribution made by Pritchard since being appointed – also on an interim basis – in August 2019.

“I am grateful to Alison for the direction and leadership she has provided to GDS over the last year,” he said. “It has been a challenging 12 months during which GDS has performed a vital role at the centre of the government’s preparations for EU Exit and the ongoing response to Covid-19 – under considerable scrutiny. Alison was an integral part of the team to secure investment in data programmes as part of the 2019 Budget, including the new Data Standards Authority, and we can look forward to collaborating with her further on this critical agenda.”

In her new post at the ONS, Pritchard will remain a key figure in the government digital and data landscape, according to Chisholm.

“The director general for data capability at ONS will drive the transformation of data services available to analysts, decision-makers and the public, mobilising data held by departments and providing an authoritative and compelling public face for this agenda,” he said. “Alison will be responsible for leadership of all aspects of data capability at ONS. This will include the delivery of digital services including utilising data from across government and the private sector to enable the production of better statistics, the delivery of technical platforms which are efficient and resilient to support digital services and the transformation of business processes.”

News of the imminent change at the top of GDS came as Cabinet Office announced that it had begun the recruitment process for a newly created role as government chief digital officer. The postholder, who will assume a permanent secretary-level position, will sit at the head of government's Digital, Data and Technology profession – a responsibility which has, until now, sat with the head of GDS.

The digital chief will be recruited instead of the government chief digital and information officer, a post that was advertised last autumn but was never filled.


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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