Los Angeles County, which won acclaim in recent years for its public-facing open data portal, is beginning to link information streams internally to increase efficiencies, and its top tech official said staffers are exploring additional ways to drive innovation.
The county’s Board of Supervisors approved the Open Data Initiative in 2015, and teamed with private software company Socrata to launch an Open Data website that would enable public access to everything from restaurant inspection reports and employee salaries to neighborhood crime stats.
More recently, the county stood up an internal Data Hub that connects health departments and their clients to services rendered, reducing duplication of services. And Los Angeles County CIO Bill Kehoe said the agency is also looking into the formation of an innovation and emerging technology task force, and the creation of a permanent development lab.
“The Board of Supervisors has directed us to look at an innovative and emerging technologies working group and come back with a recommendation in six months. Right now, we’re just exploring the function and what are the possibilities,” Kehoe said.
The board approval came at year’s end, the CIO said, noting that the new group will be an “innovation and emerging technologies committee,” and is intended to replace the county’s Information Systems Committee, which sunsetted in January.
The committee’s exact focus is not yet clear, and Kehoe said it “could be more of a high-level Information Technology (IT) governance group than innovation.” But he added, it will likely have eight to 10 members, and comprise representatives from his office, the county executive office; from the office of each county supervisor, and “outside members as well.”
Outside representatives could include members of the county tech community and potentially the private sector as well, Kehoe said.
“It will go to the board, the recommendation for what the committee’s charter is, and the membership, and then we’ll take that and see if there’s additional need to be built around innovation,” he said.
The committee will be designed by a working group that will also include representatives of the county CIO and CEO, the agency’s executive board, its county supervisors and its IT services division.
The county is also exploring the potential for an innovation lab or technology incubator, although a decision on that will likely come after the tech committee is operational and able to advise the agency, Kehoe said.
The CIO, who came to Los Angeles County from King County, Wash., in August, said that he’s observed truly innovative projects across the enterprise as he has deepened his knowledge of the agency’s various departments — initiatives that a technology lab might further.
“I’m seeing the start of some Internet of Things (projects) and I’m seeing a lot of need around data analytics and predictive models. Those are perfect candidates for an innovation lab. There’s a need to be able to try out new technologies within the business use cases that it could support,” Kehoe said, noting that areas of artificial intelligence and chatbot deployment could also be of interest.
The county is further along in its exploitation of the Data Hub, which Kehoe said went live in 2017 but predates his own arrival at the agency. So far, utilizing the concept of coordinated care — linking clients to services they have received — officials have connected data across departments, reducing siloing and better serving at-risk populations like the homeless.
Kehoe said the agency intends to layer in analytics and continue linking data and clients.
“We definitely see the capabilities, and there’s definitely some reports that we’ve produced around homelessness, but we’ve just scratched the surface,” he said.
Theo Douglas is a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.