Adel Ebeid, the chief innovation officer for the city of Philadelphia, describes his role in the city as that of a matchmaker. “I go out and force things to bump and connect,” he said.
Speaking on a panel at the NASCIO 2013 Annual Conference, “The Challenge of Mastering Innovation While Keeping the Trains Running on Time,” Ebeid discussed his dual roles in leading the city’s technology infrastructure and encouraging staff to do things differently. “There’s literally one throat to choke,” he said.
Ebeid was joined by Boston CIO Bill Oates, Maryland Chief Innovation Officer Michael Powell, Pennsylvania Director of Innovation Joe Deklinski and Public Technology Institute Executive Director and CEO Alan Shark, who moderated the discussion. According to an audience survey, 80 percent of state CIOs agree that innovation is a necessary skill set.
Before states and localities tackle innovation, they must be able to reliably deliver core IT services on a daily basis. Once the infrastructure is in order, IT chiefs can capitalize on the credibility they’ve earned with other government leaders and focus on devising ways to gain more effective products and processes.
“Our goal with the Boston Office of New Urban Mechanics was to take ideas and solve old problems in new ways by leveraging new tools such as mobility, social platforms and cloud computing,” said Oates. The city’s first success was in fixing constituent services. Realizing that people enjoyed their smartphones, Boston decided to develop a mobile app as a new way of reaching out to constituents. While the city previously had a hotline available, it engaged with a new audience that had never previously phoned the city. “They used to believe that calling the hotline was complaining, whereas now they’re the eyes and ears of the city regarding potholes or trash that wasn’t picked up,” Oates said.
Deklinski described his role in Pennsylvania as a facilitator in meeting the governor’s vision of doing things. “We’ve had 159 different innovations and saved almost $400 million,” he said. “That came not from one individual, but many individuals. We have a talented workforce, and those are the folks who know the answers.”
Powell said his success his measured by his progress in moving the needle on the governor’s 16 strategic goals. “The luxury of my job is that I don’t have an IT office to run,” he pointed out. Though technology is a component of nearly everything he does, Powell predicts that five years from now, it’s not going to be about solutions such as mobility, cloud or analytics, but results.
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