Boston is looking for younger generations to lead the way. To that end, the city announced Nov. 13 the hire of its first chief digital (CDO) officer, 28-year-old Lauren Lockwood.
A Morgan Stanley executive and recent Harvard Business School graduate, Lockwood will report to the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) starting early December. As CDO, Lockwood is charged with improving how the city provides services and interacts with citizens through digital channels.
“The role of the chief digital officer, at least the way Boston sees it, is really enhancing the city’s digital assets,” Lockwood said. “So for starters, the city has done an incredible job so far in making a national reputation for itself as a very nationally connected city. I think what they’re looking to accomplish with creating this new role is having me come in and figure out what the status is of our digital assets, so everything from the website to our social media channels … and figuring out how we can better utilize them to interact with citizens.”
Lockwood’s hire is in line with comments made by CIO Jascha Franklin-Hodge following his own hire earlier this year, when he noted that it’s government’s responsibility to engage the public through processes they are comfortable with in an attempt to leave positive impressions and establish positive relationships with citizens.
Lockwood, who has startup experience as a product manager with HourlyNerd, said she’s interested in delivering digital services in ways that are aligned with public expectation. “People are ordering just about everything with the click of a button, you can call Uber with the click of a button," she said. "And we should expect that government can deliver services at the same level that citizens expect that service from other companies, really improving the experience that members of the community have with the city."
It’s unusual for the world of government IT to look to someone in their late-20s for guidance, but Lockwood said it felt like a good fit. “I hadn’t considered a role in the public sector before," she added, "but the talent there in city hall and the people ... honestly this is just a pretty remarkable city that drew me in."
Lockwood noted in a recent radio interview that she doesn’t expect to arrive and change everything. But she noted that Boston is well positioned to continue delivering innovative services and lead the way in government technology. “Whether it’s paying your parking tickets, feeding your meter, applying for building permits, that information should be pretty easy for people to find and transact on it,” Lockwood said, adding that she may have been thinking of the city of Somerville, the first in the Boston area to allow citizens to feed parking meters and pay parking tickets easily via smartphone.
Asked if there were any cities she looked up to, Lockwood said New York City’s cohesive strategy to service delivery is a model worth emulating. “You can see if you’re interacting with different departments, you’re actually interacting with one very centrally managed city,” she said.
Lockwood also noted the importance of communicating with the public through modern platforms like social media, adding that it’s a two-way exchange of information. “We’re able now to hear from so many more citizens than we were in the past, where they would have to come into city hall to voice an opinion," she said, "whereas now, you see all the tweets, you can see all the comments on the website, there are a number of ways we can listen a lot better."