London gets a chief digital officer to ensure the capital is “open to innovation”

Camden councillor Theo Blackwell had previously worked at govtech accelerator Public Group and will work to develop a new Smart London Plan

London will now have a chief digital officer dedicated to ensuring the capital remains open to innovation and becomes the world’s smartest city.

Appointed by mayor Sadiq Khan, Camden councillor Theo Blackwell will help realise Khan’s vision of using London’s status as one of the world’s biggest tech hubs to transform the way public services are delivered.

To complete this goal, one of Blackwell’s main responsibilities will be to work alongside the mayor’s Smart London Board to develop a new Smart London Plan.

Helping to build collaboration across London’s boroughs and businesses, the Smart London Plan, which was originally conceived during Boris Johnson’s reign as mayor, looks at how technology can improve the lives of everyday Londoners.

Blackwell will also promote manifesto ambitions around pan-London collaboration on connectivity, digital inclusion, cyber-security and open data and will also focus on scoping work for the London Office for Technology & Innovation that was announced by Khan at London Tech Week.

US immigrant Blackwell previously worked at govtech accelerator Public Group, where he advised start-ups on the growing market in local public services, and was also previously head of policy and public affairs for the video games industry’s trade body, Ukie.

The councillor, who was a cabinet member for finance, technology and growth, established Camden as London’s leading digital borough through its use of public data.

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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.

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.

“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.”

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.”