Stott has been appointed to fill the newly created role of director of digital engagement, it was announced last week. While many in Whitehall expected new blood from the private sector, Stott has been promoted from deputy chief information officer in the Cabinet Office.
Asked about Stott’s previous experience of social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: ‘Andrew has been on Facebook since 2007. He has been a regular on various technical news groups for longer than that, and first had home internet access in 1996, back in the days of the information super-highway.’
The spokeswoman failed to mention any previous activity on Twitter, saying only: ‘The director of digital engagement Twitter account (@DirDigEng) has picked up almost 1,000 followers in under a week and will be a valuable tool for engaging online communities.’
A number of bloggers have seized on the appointment. Puffbox blogger Simon Dickson said Stott was an ‘appointment from the government IT angle, rather than the social media angle’.
But blogger Andrew Lewin echoed the views of many, writing that Stott was preferable to a private sector expert: ‘I think many, myself included, expected a new face from the private sector to make a bold splash and shake everything up – which, to be honest, wasn’t a very appealing prospect for those of us who have been plugging away at this for a while now.’
Stott was not available for comment. A press release announcing his appointment stated: ‘He has had director-level oversight within the Cabinet Office for the Power of Information work from its inception and was a member of the Minister for Digital Engagement’s Power of Information task force.’
Stott will be based in the government communication department of the Cabinet Office, which is overseen by permanent secretary for government communications Matt Tee. He will work with Digital Engagement Minister Tom Watson to help Whitehall departments converse with citizens through digital technology.
Watson said: ‘Together we will transform the way Government engages with citizens through the internet and free up government data, so people can use public services more effectively.’
How I see it
Director of social media, Brando
It wouldn’t be fair for me to dismiss Andrew Stott because he’s not ex-Facebook or from a similar site, but I would be concerned if he had not been ‘living’ in the environment.
You can’t expect to lead a mass adaptation unless you’ve made some successful adaptations to the new environment yourself. To adapt to an environment you must live in it.
Hopefully Stott has splashed his way out of the water and started developing the rudimentary lungs and legs required to succeed on the new land that’s emerging as the waters of traditional media recede.