Rachel Haot: Here's How to Spur Innovation in Government

New York City’s first chief digital officer offers thoughts on the future of government.

Rachel Haot is making waves both in government and in the technology community as a whole. New York City’s first chief digital officer is trying to make New York the country’s leading digital city by bringing industry and government together. This means opening the lines of communication, releasing city data for developers and encouraging collaboration between the public and private sectors to benefit the city’s residents.

An entrepreneur herself, Haot founded the website GroundReport in 2006. The hyperlocal news platform puts the controls in the hands of citizen journalists. Her job as chief digital officer requires her to use many of the same skills that made GroundReport successful.

Haot was at SXSW in Austin, TX, to participate on a panel called “Hacking Cities for a Better, Sustainable Tomorrow,” where she discussed New York City’s response to Hurricane Sandy. Below is an excerpt from an article about the presentation:

When it came to the application of technology for engagement, NYC has 300 social profiles, with one set of parent accounts for each channel. Normally the various accounts are managed autonomously, but during Sandy they consolidated that management. Haot said, “It was crucial to keep people up to date. Social media was a lifeline for those that could access it via mobiles because Twitter, Facebook, and other apps took very little data to access and they could report that they were okay or get information. We had accelerated approvals process so if a department had a new status update, the message could be verified with legal and any other necessary departments as quickly as possible and then posted.” Twitter worked with the City to support promoted tweets so anyone searching for Sandy on Twitter would see the updates from the Mayor’s Office. “We streamed every press conference online with over a million views.”

Read SXSW: New York City's Data Hacking for Good on The NonProfit Times.

Afterward, TechCrunch reporter Colleen Taylor interviewed Haot about her new job. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Are there lessons that can be incorporated into smaller cities?

Every single government in the world right now is being disrupted by digital technology. The key important thing to keep in mind is that in order to continue to be effective and responsive to your constituents, you need to come to where they live. If where they live is somewhere online — if it’s via Facebook or Twitter, if it’s through a mobile device — then you need to be responsive in that way. It really is the future of government. In terms of industry, same thing goes. Digital is disrupting and changing every single industry. You look at a city like New York, where you have these long-standing, leading industries like media, fashion, finance, real estate. As they are disrupted, they are all becoming more digital, and that is one of the reasons we’re seeing phenomenal momentum in New York City.

Watch the video below, and let us know in the Comments section if your city plans to hire a chief digital officer.

<p>Image courtesy of Damian Brandon / <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net" target="_blank">FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>
Mar 25 2013