California Considers Launching a Data and Civic Innovation Lab

The Deputy Director for the California Department of Technology is considering a statewide system that will allow for more flow of government data and an Innovation Lab to work on new strategies of how to take advantage of it.

by / December 3, 2015
Chris Cruz, chief deputy director of operations for the California Department of Technology, talks about the innovation lab during a panel discussion at the State of Technology Industry Forum in Sacramento on Dec. 1. Photo by Tony Arias.

California is interested in creating a sandbox-style environment where state government entities can experiment together on new approaches to open data management, application development and security solutions.

Chris Cruz, chief deputy director of operations for the California Department of Technology, said Tuesday the innovation lab could be located within CalCloud, the state’s private cloud.

“If we had an environment we could co-manage together and write and develop code, maybe we can leverage this information for multiple applications. That way we begin to streamline and roll things up to a standardized level of doing business,” Cruz said in remarks during the State of Technology Industry Forum in Sacramento, an event sponsored by TechWire.

The state of California received several good ideas to build upon from the GreenGov Challenge code-a-thon hosted in October by the Department of General Services, Government Operations Agency and the Department of Technology, Cruz said.

“In terms of big data and big projects, the ‘big bang’ [development approach] probably doesn’t work. So why don’t we take a more partitioned or integrated approach to how we implement systems and applications? Maybe we’ll drive more value and less risk in terms of that information,” Cruz said.

Although the innovation lab is in its infancy, Cruz said one area of focus could be working collaboratively to improve the security of data and code in a manner that enables civic technology and open source programs.

“That’s always been a challenge around open source because you have different folks in different sandboxes trading or transitioning data or code back and forth. So how do you ensure that folks aren’t leaving open-ended traces in their code and how do you manage and secure that?” Cruz said.

There seems to be growing momentum for innovation spaces within California state government:

  • In a report released in October, the Little Hoover Commission recommended that California launch to its own internal digital services team to work on quick-hitting projects for the benefit of Californians. The team could be modeled after 18F and the U.S. Digital Service in Washington, D.C. – emerging federal initiatives that recruit top talent from the private sector for short, flexible stints of work.
  • The California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS) recently hired FUSE fellow Niles Friedman to establish a new Health Innovation Office. FUSE Corps is a nonprofit that “partners with civic leaders to identify pressing strategic challenges and then recruits entrepreneurial, mid-career professionals to serve in executive-level fellowships across local government.” A source said work began in earnest on the Health Innovation Office three weeks ago.

This article was originally published on TechWire.

Matt Williams Contributing Writer

Matt Williams was previously the news editor of Govtech.com, and is now a contributor to Government Technology and Public CIO magazines. He also previously served as the managing editor of TechWire, a sister publication to Government Technology.2