Mike Bracken Appointed Government Digital Director

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The government’s so-called “digital czar” has been appointed to improve its online presence

The government has announced the appointment of a former Guardian executive as its new digital director.

Mike Bracken will begin his job as the government’s executive director of digital on 5 July. He is currently director of digital development at the Guardian newspaper, and previously helped found the MySociety website, which runs services such as TheyWorkForYou and FixMyStreet.

In his new role, Bracken will be on a salary of £142,000, nearly the same amount as prime minister David Cameron. He is responsible for overseeing and improving all of the government’s online presence and extending the number of public services available online.

Applicant Wanted

The government began advertising for the role back in early April, but had to deny reports that the job was effectively to act as a “Twitter Czar”.

In truth the role was created following the Martha Lane Fox review of Directgov, which recommended a change in focus for the existing Directgov Central Team, and to bring digital communications into one place. The idea received unprecedented support from Ministers and across government for an increased role in digital public services.

Essentially Bracken will be in charge of Directgov, and will also act as the lead of cross-government digital reform work.

“This is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity. All the internal and external factors are pointing towards a revolution in digital public service delivery, and to be offered this opportunity was an honour,” said Bracken. “While there is a great deal to do, I am convinced that if we attract new digital skills, adopt user-first principles and work collaboratively within government and with a wider, more agile supplier base, then we can improve how citizens interact with government.”

“We will need to collaborate, be open and quick to adopt new technologies and continually learn from users and their experiences, and it will take backing from all corners, but the prize on offer is simply too great to ignore,” he added.

Online Reform

The appointment comes as the government seeks ways to improve its online presence, as well as reduce costs.

With that in mind, the government recently created a prototype website called alpha.gov.uk. The website supposedly offers an example of what a single UK government website could look like, but is not permanent and is not intended to replace any other government sites.

That said, it is not yet known whether it could eventually replace Directgov in the future.

And the government is seeking to reduce costs by axing the number of websites it operates. Earlier this week for example the Identity and Passport Service website was merged into the Home Office site.

Last June Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pledged to “scrap hundreds of unnecessary and expensive government websites, and slash the cost of the remaining sites to save millions of pounds.”

This followed an admission from the then-Labour government back in January 2010 that it had closed 907 out of Government 1,700 websites, following the recommendations of the Varney report back in 2006.

Speaking of the appointment of Bracken, Maude welcomed him to the new role.

“Improving public services across government by bringing them online, making people’s lives easier and saving millions of pounds is a prize worth having,” said Maude. “Mike has a shown he can deliver real change through his achievements at the Guardian. I am looking forward seeing radical change in our public services online experience.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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