In 2010, Colorado became the first state to appoint a chief data officer (CDO). A year later, New York City pioneered the position in local government.
Since then, the ranks of CDOs in state and local government have grown steadily, driven by expanding interest in predictive analytics, civic hacking and performance measurement. Research by Government Technology located more than a dozen CDOs in states and localities across the U.S. And that number seems poised to multiply as governments seek to harness the power of big data.
Although public agencies collect mountains of information, they’ve struggled to share and integrate data streams in ways that support comprehensive analysis. Issues around data ownership, as well as privacy laws and public perception, have been significant stumbling blocks.
CDOs – along with CIOs and chief innovation officers – are at the forefront of solving these concerns through new data standards and policies. Often, they’ve also been champions for open data initiatives, which support civic hacking activities and other forms of innovation.
One of the public sector’s newest chief data officers – San Francisco’s Joy Bonaguro –said March that her primary goals include unifying data standards across the city and propelling open data efforts wherever and whenever possible. “I think generically the challenges are that you have lots of complex back-end systems, and getting the data out of there in a convenient and easy fashion is a challenge shared across government,” she said.
As jurisdictions seek to get greater insight from the information they collect, expect to see more chief data officers tackling these challenges.Research by Maggie Cabrey