The role is part of the government’s commercial interchange programme, which hopes to enable the public and private sectors to share skills and knowledge.
Thorpe will help the government deliver its strategy of developing services that are "digital by default" as well as contributing to the reforms of the civil service.
He will report to Mike Bracken, the executive director of GDS. He said Thorpe brings "deep expertise in innovative business strategy" and shares the department’s mission to drive "digital by default" standards across government.
Prior to joining SapientNitro, Thorpe worked at the Institute of State Effectiveness, the non-governmental organisation developing models of governance and security to help leaders, such as those in Afghanistan, develop effective states.
Thorpe has worked at WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam networks and held senior positions at The New Yorker magazine and book publisher Random House.
Bracken said: "David was a natural choice based on his tremendous experience in helping public and private sector organizations to understand and adapt to complex changes in their business environments. That’s the kind of strategic expertise and drive we need to affect meaningful reform of the UK civil service."
In a statement SapientNitro said Thorpe would retain his role at the agency during the one-year term.
Russell Davies, the former head of planning at R/GA London, also works at the GDS, developing language and user experience.Follow @MaisieMcCabe