What’s New in Civic Tech: CDOs Key to States' COVID Recovery

Plus, the nation’s second most populous county is looking to hire a chief data officer for its public defender office, National Digital Inclusion Week is now set for early October, and more.

Data center. (Shutterstock)
A new report from the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University has found that the economic recovery framework states are using in the wake of COVID-19 is outdated and could do with an update aimed at including data. 

The report, dubbed Leveraging Data for Economic Recovery: A Roadmap for States, is available to read online now. The main finding as it pertains to civic tech is that, “States that have begun long-term recovery planning are doing so under a framework that was created after Hurricane Katrina nearly 15 years ago and predates the existence of state Chief Data Officers (CDO) along with other modern data and digital service approaches.”

By modernizing the recovery efforts in a way that improves the way states use data, the report goes on to note, states can potentially even turn the crisis into an occasion for going beyond pre-pandemic conditions, especially as it pertains to ensuring that communities of color and other underserved residents are supported. In essence, it suggests that data is a vital tool not only in recovering, but in creating new systems, policies and decisions that will lead our communities to become more equitable.

“By using data to inform policy and improve public understanding of pathways out of poverty,” the report notes, “states can efficiently and effectively lead the way to improve economic mobility for their residents.”

The chief authors of the report — which was published this month — are Katya Abazajian and Tyler Kleykamp

Cook County, Ill., Public Defender Looks to Hire Chief Data Officer

Speaking of chief data officers, the most populous county in Illinois — Cook County, which is home to Chicago — is currently looking to hire one for it’s public defender’s office.

The job was posted earlier this month on the county’s website
, and the application window is slated to remain open until Aug. 20. The role is to be housed in Cook County’s Chief of the Trial Technology Division, with the successful candidate ultimately overseeing the Cook County Public Defender’s Data Evaluation Division. 

According to the posting, the hope is that having a chief data officer will provide organizational government and policy directives for the office as it relates to data entry, data use and efforts to make information there generally more accessible. Helping to facilitate data-driven decision-making as well as innovation in both the county and the office is also part of the gig. 

Cook County is the second most populous county in the country, and the wider office itself has now had a chief data officer for about two years. The position is a new one for the public defender’s office, and it is being funded by a grant.

Digital Inclusion Week Set for October

Digital Inclusion Week, which is an international occasion aimed at addressing issues related to the digital divide, is set this year to run from Oct. 5 through Oct. 9. 

The week is relatively new, created by digital equity advocates within the past few years, and this year the COVID-19 crisis will change the nature of the events related to the week. In a typical year, Digital Inclusion Week has as of late been made up of events and workshops at libraries, as well as things like digital skills training classes, used device refurbishment and distribution, and more. This year, however, it will be an international online event.

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance, which is sponsoring the week, announced the dates this week, noting that its efforts represent more than 450 affiliated groups spread throughout 44 states. There is a dedicated webpage for the event, and it lists resources that can be used to both create or find a related event. There is also contact information on the page for the many groups that make up the alliance, which users can search by location to find groups in their areas.

In addition to forcing activities online, the COVID-19 pandemic has also inadvertently emphasized the importance of National Digital Inclusion Week. For years, advocates in the space have been emphasizing the importance of making sure all people have access to the Internet, devices to benefit from the Internet and digital skills training that makes time spent on the Internet meaningful. 

In the wake of the crisis, decision-makers in both the public and private sectors have become newly aware of the importance of making sure all people have Internet at home, with access to online education, telework and telehealth driving this increased awareness.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine