New York City is known as a center for trailblazers, and that was true when Rachel Haot stepped up to serve as the city’s first chief digital officer, back in 2011.
At the time, though MySpace had already risen and fallen, social media was largely viewed as an emerging field. And the idea of a city focusing on optimizing its infrastructure and operations from a digital perspective was wild, even for an urban innovation center like NYC.
After Haot left, in 2013, Jessica Singleton stepped in as the city’s new chief digital officer, but she left the role in July of this year. But New Yorkers can rejoice, because in August, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Sree Sreenivasan, a renowned digital journalist who had been the chief digital officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, would step into the role as New York City’s chief digital officer, starting in October.
This will be Sreenivasan’s third time serving as a chief digital officer. In addition to his stint at the Met, Sreenivasan served as chief digital officer at Columbia University from 2012 to 2013. That gives him a unique vantage point, because he’s worked in a digital leadership role in higher education, nonprofit and now city government.
This wealth of experience colors Sreenivasan’s outlook, and he’s already targeting one subject in particular: digital equity.
“How do we make New York city digitally equitable? The world’s richest and poorest people stay within blocks of each other in this city. How do we make it interesting, fair and right all over New York,” Sreenivasan said in an interview with The Indian Express.
In a nod to his journalism training, he believes that his role as the Big Apple’s chief digital officer isn’t just to dictate things.
“I look at my job as the chief listening officer of New York as much as Chief Digital Officer. I need to listen for ideas, for what’s working … travel and hear ideas and bring them back. Because no one has a monopoly on good ideas, no city does.”