Articles

Office of Civic Innovation, New City Officials Help Further San Jose, Calif.'s Smart City Vision

The crux of the city's new efforts is to assist other departments with forming strategies that align priorities and resources, while lowering barriers to the adoption of new processes.

by / July 5, 2016
David Kidd

The city of San Jose, Calif., has made an announcement centered around innovation: the creation of the new Office of Civic Innovation and two new hires who will work within it.

The new office will be led by Kip Harkness, director of technology engagement at PayPal, who will join the city as deputy city manager in mid-August. A director of civic innovation and digital strategies was also named: Steven DiNoto will join the organization later this month. He comes from a position as senior manager of finance operations at Amazon. The city reports that the two new hires will work with new CIO Rob Lloyd on an initiative designed to enhance the quality and efficiency of city operations, and further the goals of the San Jose Smart City Vision.

City Manager Norberto Dueñas said the city's long-term growth depends on this new office.

"We'll never have enough resources to do everything our community wants and deserves," he said, "so that means we must create and support an organizational culture that thrives on innovation and data that can help us find better ways to get the job done."

During the next two months, Harkness and DiNoto will put together the foundation for the new office, which will continue the innovation work that's been done in the city over the last few years, said Communications Director David Vossbrink.

"Their mission in the beginning here is to ... sort out a lot of our strategies, priorities and projects," he said, "and then really get feet on the ground and work closely with our departments, mayor's office and other council members, plus external partners to help us really put a strategic framework together so we can be more effective in recruiting opportunities, evaluating those that come across our doorstep, making sure we're not just spinning wheels, but doing stuff that can deliver results for us."

The crux of the city's new efforts, according to an official press release (PDF), is to assist other departments with forming strategies that align priorities and resources, while lowering barriers to the adoption of new processes. Key partners to the Office of Civic Innovation are to include the Mayor's Innovation Team, which is led by Shireen Santosham.

"Through the Smart City Vision, we're embracing civic innovations and technologies that will improve safety, services and quality of life for the people of San Jose," said Mayor Sam Liccardo in the press release. "This office will play a critical role in achieving this vision and capitalizing on the unique opportunities available to us in the most innovative community on the planet."

Before his roles with PayPal and now as deputy city manager, Harkness served the city for 15 years in a variety of capacities, including as leader of the city's Strong Neighborhoods Initiative.

"I'm coming home to a community I love and an organization I deeply respect," Harkness said. "This is an amazing opportunity to improve services for people and develop the city's capacity to work in a more agile, iterative, technological approach that takes full advantage of being in the heart of Silicon Valley."

Before working at Amazon and now as director of civic innovation and digital strategies at the city, DiNoto managed security operations for Apple and served for 11 years as Chief Administrative Officer for the San José Police Department, where he was responsible for the Crime and Intelligence Analysis Unit.

"I'm impressed by San Jose's strong commitment to innovation and new ideas, and I am looking forward to rejoining the city in this new role," DiNoto said. "The city's long-term focus on quality, strategy and continuous improvement is clearly strengthened by the creation of the Office of Civic Innovation."

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.