Government Denies Digital Director Is ‘Twitter Tsar’

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The Coalition Government is looking for an online expert, it says, not a “Twitter Tsar”

The British government is seeking to hire someone to boost its online presence, after advertising for the post of an ‘Executive Director Digital’ on the Civil Service jobs website.

“The Cabinet Office is looking for an exceptional candidate to fill the new and exciting role of Executive Director of Digital to lead the implementation of the Coalition Government’s new digital strategy,” said the advert. “Sitting at the heart of the government’s radical public service reform agenda this will be a rewarding role with a great deal of public visibility.”

The new post replaces three existing jobs including the government’s director of digital engagement and the director general of Directgov. The successful applicant will run the government website Directgov, which gives people advice about tax and benefits.

Not ‘Twitter Tsar’

The position will be well paid too, with the successful applicant on a salary of £142,000, nearly the   same amount as prime minister David Cameron.

The job listing comes as millions of public sector workers are taking a pay freeze and the government’s decision last year to cut 75 percent of its websites, reducing annual online spending from £560 million to £200 million each year.

This position has been labelled by critics as the “Twitter Tsar”, with some wags suggesting that their job applications had to be 140 characters or less.

But government officials have rejected ‘Twitter tsar’ headlines.

“It makes it sound that they will spend all day tweeting which is ludicrous,” a Cabinet Office spokesman told the BBC. “There is so much more to this than that. This is a key role which is potentially going to save a lot of money.”

And even the government’s Digital Champion Martha Lane-Fox has been dragged into the debate, after she admitted that the job was her idea.

Yesterday she used Twitter to say that it was ‘mean’ to describe the role as ‘Twitter Tsar’.

“That’s mean – was one of my biggest recs from last yr is that central govt needs dig capability – not a *twitter tsar* not at all,” she wrote.

Other ‘Twitter Tsars’

However it should be noted that this is not the first time the Government has appointed a so-called Twitter expert.

Back in May 2009, then prime minister Gordon Brown hired Andrew Stott as Director for Digital Engagement and Transparency in 2009 – on an even higher salary of £160,000.

The government even announced that the public could follow him on Twitter.

Also two years ago a British civil servant wrote a well recieved 20-page guide on how organisations, such as government departments, should use Twitter.

Departments should spend less than one hour a day managing their Twitter streams, and should respond to direct messages, according to the guide, which was written by Neil Williams, then head of corporate digital channels at Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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