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What’s New in Civic Tech: Connecticut CDO Works to Create State Data Officers Network

Plus, 10 city leaders launch “Mayors for Smart on Crime” initiative, 18F warns public agencies against building native mobile apps and Detroit seeks to hire a director of emerging technology.

Connecticut Chief Data Officer Tyler Kleykamp has previously contemplated how nice it would be for state CDOs to have a professional network similar to the Civic Analytics Network, which consists of data officers at the municipal level.

In a recent medium post, Kleykamp and his peers have gone past contemplating the benefits and have begun working to establish a state CDO network, one they describe as “currently a voluntary, self-organized network of state chief data officers or equivalent positions in state government.”

And the effort seems to be off to a good start, as Kleykamp notes that this nascent network includes himself, as well as peers from Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont. In the post, Kleykamp also lays out a set of operating principles the group has adopted.

These operating principles include purpose, benefits and objectives, voluntary membership, consensus decision-making, prohibition of vendor participation and keeping the group strictly the domain of those who serve the public. The principles include more elaborate and nuanced details about each of the five broader categories.

The network, the post notes, is currently open to proposals from other groups that would seek to partner with it in order to advance its work. A conference call for membership is slated to take place on March 2.

In the earlier post discussing the benefits of this network, Kleykamp noted that his initial inspiration came from attending the Civic Analytics Network’s first Summit on Data-Smart Government in November and noting how beneficial working together had been for CDOs at the city level. 

Leaders from 10 cities launch “Mayors for Smart on Crime” initiative

Mayors from 10 cities have joined with the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy group, to launch a national platform to highlight cities’ smart approaches to public safety.

The group has dubbed this effort Mayors for Smart on Crime, and so far it includes leaders from the following cities: New York City; Seattle; Denver; Boston; Philadelphia; Gary, Ind.; Stockton, Calif.; Baton Rouge, La.; Dayton, Ohio; and Birmingham, Ala. In a press release announcing the initiative, organizers note they expect more mayors to eventually join. One of the main goals of this program is to allow mayors to share ideas and lessons learned.

The program will center on strategies rooted in four principals, with those being fair enforcement of the law, just and proportional responses to crime, comprehensive investments, and strategies that are driven by evidence and data.

Issue areas that the group expects to focus on range from violence reduction, to bail reform, to public health investments. An increasing number of police departments in major cities are turning to gov tech to fight crime, with one notable example being Chicago. The city, which has long struggled with gun violence, saw a 21 percent drop in shootings last year after deploying six Strategic Decision Support Centers. Essentially, Chicago used upgrades to analytics and field technology to reduce crime, which is the sort of work the Mayors for Smart on Crime program seems poised to tackle. 

18F warns public agencies against building native mobile apps

The federal tech consultancy 18F has advised public agencies to focus on building highly-optimized, mobile-friendly websites and to leave native mobile apps by the wayside.

In a blog on its website, 18F noted this week that “building products for the public requires a lot of listening and finding the right balance of value, cost and user needs to build the best product.” While the group said there are times when it is appropriate to build a mobile app, a website will almost always be more cost- and time-efficient for governmental departments — especially given the amount of effort it takes to spread awareness and engage app users.

“Native apps also have a huge user acquisition and engagement challenge,” 18F wrote in its blog. “The process of raising audience awareness, getting them to their respective app store, getting them to download and install, getting them to open the app and getting them to regularly use it is a very steep conversion hill to climb. Whereas on the mobile web, there’s no installation needed.”

Essentially, it boils down to this: the vast majority of public agencies aim to serve the most people possible. Given the usual restraints of governmental budgets, this is almost always better accomplished through investments in existing Web presences with an eye toward mobile optimization, rather than by building separate mobile apps. 

Detroit seeks to hire director of emerging technology

Detroit is seeking to hire a director of emerging technology to work under the direction of its CIO and lead its Innovation and Emerging Technology (IET) team.

The city has listed the posting online, emphasizing that the IET team manages its open data program in addition to a portfolio of open-source projects, ranging from mapping tools to text and voice applications. “Our work aims to simplify internal workflows, make data more accessible to residents and help our city government be more responsive and connected.”

Those interested in applying are asked to email a resume and a statement of interest to

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.