The city of Los Angeles has a lot riding on 25-year-old Abhi Nemani.
The former co-executive director of Code for America and Google intern will take on a new challenge come Sept. 2, when he officially begins his role as the city’s first chief data officer.
"I'm pleased that Abhi Nemani is joining my team to manage the collection of data citywide and create tools to use data that will help solve everyday challenges for our residents," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.
Across the country, a small but growing number of states, counties and cities are naming chief data officers to manage and disseminate data generated and shared by government employees and citizens. Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco have also hired chief data officers, according to The Council of State Governments. In addition, states including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut and Maryland, as well as counties such as Miami-Dade County in Florida and North Carolina’s Wake County, have invested in chief executives who can harness the power of data for making decisions and improving operations.
But some question whether the number of chief data officers will continue to grow, adding yet another top exec to the crowded boardroom table.
Nemani will work out of Los Angeles’s Office of Budget and Innovation and collaborate with the city’s chief technology officer and chief innovation technology officer. Last week, NBC’s Los Angeles affiliate, KNBC, reported that Nemani said that even though he does not have a staff, that won’t stop him from addressing the city’s traffic and water-usage problems.
"Data has the power to transform the daily lives of L.A. residents and visitors,” Nemani said in a statement released by the city. “Knowing where your money is going, where a parking space is available and where an event is taking place puts information into the hands of those who need it most.”
He will work with the city’s departments to collect and analyze data and lead the operation of the city's new open-data portal. Last year, Nemani wrote an article that gave cities seven tips for fostering innovation. High on the list was using good data for better decisions and appointing a chief data officer or creating an office of performance management.
Nemani isn’t a newcomer to the government space. While at Code for America, he led the nonprofit’s product strategy, which included developing solutions to improve transparency, business licensing, food stamps and public safety for local governments, according to his LinkedIn profile. His work at Google involved developing social engagement strategies.
He is on the board of directors of the OpenGov Foundation, of which House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa is cofounder and chairman of the board. Nemani graduated from Claremont McKenna College with an honors degree in philosophy, politics and economics, and he studied political philosophy and rhetoric at the University of Oxford.