GDS and CDDO to move from Cabinet Office to DSIT – PublicTechnology

The new Labour government has acted swiftly to reveal plans to expand DSIT to encompass government’s core digital agencies, although details of the switchover process are only beginning to emerge

The Government Digital Service and Central Digital and Data Office are to move from their long-time home of the Cabinet Office to become part of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

As Labour began its first week in power, the new administration on Monday unveiled plans to “expand [DSIT] in scope and size, bringing experts in data, digital and AI” into the department from GDS, CDDO and the Incubator for Artificial Intelligence, a unit which was formerly split between the Cabinet Office and 10 Downing Street.

DSIT confirmed to PublicTechnology that this will involve the three entities moving wholesale from the Cabinet Office to the science department – including all people and responsibilities. Each of the tech-focused units is expected, in the near term at least, to continue operating in more or less their current form as a discrete organisation.

There is, as yet, no defined timeline for the switchover to take place, but – with three entities and about 1,000 civil servants involved – this process is expected to take weeks, if not months. The GOV.UK sites of both CDDO and GDS continue to list each unit as being part of the Cabinet Office.

In the meantime, DSIT said that the move would enabled government to “unite efforts in the digital transformation of public services under one department”.

The department’s new secretary of state, Peter Kyle, added: “Britain will not fully benefit from the social and economic potential of science and technology without government leading by example. So, DSIT is to become the centre for digital expertise and delivery in government, improving how the government and public services interact with citizens. We will act as a leader and partner across government, with industry and the research communities, to boost Britain’s economic performance and power up our public services to improve the lives and life chances of people through the application of science and technology.”

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Kyle, the MP for Hove, was among a collection of 40 parliamentary candidates identified before the election by the Labour Digital group as those that best embody “a Labour movement that harnesses the power of technology to empower people, transform society and grow our economy”.

Alongside chief secretary to the Treasury Darren Jones, the new DSIT secretary is one of two that featured on the Labour Digital list that have now been appointed to positions in Keir Starmer’s cabinet.

The announcement that GDS is set to switch departments comes just as the organisation has confirmed that former GOV.UK director Christine Bellamy is to take over as interim chief executive. She replaces Tom Read, who last month left government after spending most of the last 10 years as a civil servant – including more than three years in charge of GDS.

GDS was created as part of the Cabinet Office in late 2011; having unveiled GOV.UK shortly after its establishment, the digital unit also took on responsibility for overseeing the then-recently created digital and technology spend controls. In the years since, it has also built and launched a number of cross-government platforms, including GOV.UK Pay and Notify.

In 2021, CDDO was effectively spun out of GDS to take over responsibility for directing cross-government strategy and sitting at the head of the digital and data profession, as well as enforcing standards and controls. Since then, GDS has focused purely on delivery of digital services.

GDS employs about 750 people, while CDDO has around 200 staff.

The Incubtator for Artificial Intelligence – often referred to as i.AI – was created in November 2023 with a remit “to help departments harness the potential of AI to improve lives and the delivery of public services”, according to the organisation’s website. The unit began life with 30 employees and plans to recruit a further 40 were announced earlier this year.

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The new Labour government has acted swiftly to reveal plans to expand DSIT to encompass gove…