Web 2.0: UK Government Looking for a Director of Digital

The UK Government is definitely taking the whole web 2.0 thing seriously as it sets out to hire a ‘Twitter Tsar’ with an annual salary of £142,000, a pay packet just below what the Prime Minister David Cameron earns. This will be one of the best paid jobs in Whitehall and was advertised on the Civil Service website titled, ‘the new and exciting role of Executive Director of Digital’. Naturally, the announcement did attract feedback on Internet as people joked whether the candidates should apply for the job in fewer than 140 characters!

A Cabinet Office spokesperson has said, "Twitter will be a tiny part of the job and to call this role a Twitter Tsar is like calling Richard Branson a flight steward.” Martha Lane-Fox, the entrepreneur and the Government's unpaid digital adviser, was instrumental in setting up this latest vacancy and Ms Fox took to Twitter to say that calling it a "Twitter Tsar" was "mean" and misleading, pointing out that it was essential the government ran a cheap, simple 2.0 website to help citizens.

The ‘Tsar’s position will ensure that Government initiatives are easily and clearly understood by the public when they search for information on web 2.0. The UK Government recognises that it needs someone to lead it, transform the way it currently interacts on-line, join up all the dots and make all the digital arms of Government connect. As many UK citizens are frustrated that if, for instance, they change their residential address on a the pensions website, other services like the driving licence agency do not pick up this detail, which then forces the individual to enter their change of address on to a separate website for their driving licence, which wastes time and effort.

Ms Fox reviewed the Government’s web 2.0 services and recommended that the Government's 750 websites should be simplified and brought under one umbrella site. In 2010 the UK’s Coalition government said it wanted to axe 75 per cent of all Government websites, cutting annual web spending from £560 million to £200 million; Ms Lane Fox believes this figure could fall to less than £100 million a year.

This is not the first time that the British government has advertised for a ‘Director for Digital’; as its first stint into hiring a social media champion was when it recruited Andrew Stott, the original ‘Twitter Tsar’, in 2009, on an salary of £160,000. Mr Stott has since retired and now running Directgov, a web 2.0 website that supplies consumers with information about tax and benefits, plus provides details of consumers' rights when it comes to dealing with utility companies, landlords or local councils. So, this Government digital role will be a major player who will wield responsibility for overseeing and improving all of the Government’s online presence and extending the number of public services available online; hopefully bringing considerable savings to the British taxpayer.

Photo Credit: Marcie Casas

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