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Atlanta's IT Office Matures With a Focus on Ecosystem Growth

Just over a year since the launch of Atlanta’s new Office of Technology and Innovation, city tech leaders reflect on the role of the office in the city's work to build a broader technology ecosystem.

Aerial skyline view depicts the city of Atlanta at night
Since its creation just more than a year ago, the city of Atlanta’s Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) has helped shape a broader technology ecosystem for the city.

The creation of the office started with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ tech-oriented vision for the city, Senior Technology Adviser Donald Beamer Jr. said. Beamer was appointed to the inaugural role in 2022, where he works alongside CIO Jason Sankey.

The administration's vision centers technology from the perspective of economic development, creating a pathway through technology to create economic mobility for constituents. The work to achieve this vision is a shared undertaking by OTI and the mayor’s office.

Building Out OTI

Beamer looks at OTI’s work in three broad categories. The first, he explained, is perception, which involves creating awareness of the benefits of starting a company in the city. The second is measurement, which involves using metrics to track progress. And finally, the third area is resources, focusing on the talent, capital and customers that play a role in this ecosystem.

While the senior tech adviser is an inaugural role within an office that is still being built out, Beamer's approach to the work involves taking an entrepreneurial viewpoint.

Having studied at the Georgia Institute of Technology and worked with corporations like BlackRock, Cox Communications, and as an Atlanta tech entrepreneur, Beamer said he has gotten to participate in the various nodes of the technology ecosystem. This experience helps him speak the language of those in government, the private sector and academia, and to convene them more effectively.

“Our function is to connect the dots because all the assets are here in Atlanta,” he said, adding that collaboration is an Atlanta superpower. “If we can just help orchestrate the activity across the ecosystem to guide that progress, we can paint a perfect picture.”

In the first year, the work of building out this new office has involved defining issues to understand where OTI can be most impactful. The other aspect of the work has been finding and convening this coalition of tech stakeholders across sectors in the community.

The mayor’s current cabinet is the largest in the city's history, according to Beamer, bringing over 20 departments together to understand workforce needs. This also helps to create a broader understanding of each department’s priorities, problems and how OTI can help solve those problems with technology.

A key part of the administration's focus centers on inclusion and equity. One of the ways these goals are being accomplished is through the Atlanta Startup Growth Loan Program, which was first launched in October 2023.

Beamer noted that in Southeast Atlanta there is a shortage of capital that can be partially addressed with loans to area technology startups for the purchase of technology, inventory or commercial space.


Effectively shaping the city's technology ecosystem involves building a workforce to meet its evolving needs. Atlanta has taken a unique approach that involves, in a sense, gamifying entry into the IT field.

This approach includes the e-sports and workforce development program and the Minecraft Challenge, both of which launched in fall 2023. Beamer said, the e-sports and workforce development program aims to help the city find enough people to fill the many open roles in city government. As large tech companies move to the city, the need for diverse talent increases even more, he said.

“That’s the other Atlanta superpower: diversity of people and thought,” Beamer said.

The ultimate goal is to get young people excited about technology early, and this is being accomplished by leveraging an activity many young people already participate in: gaming. The program, which operates through Department of Parks and Recreation centers across the city, is a way to meet those young people where they are while doing what they already are doing.

Beamer noted that because people of color are underrepresented in the industry as both developers and designers, this e-sports program offers early exposure to the industry and possible careers within it.

“It's really about not only showing them opportunities that they could do careers in e-sports, but we're also looking at it like a pathway to STEAM in general and other roles,” Sasha Smith, OTI technology strategist added.

By bringing in partners, including organizations that can help participants get technical certifications in tech-related areas, they will be able to not only see themselves in these careers but also start building toward them, Smith said. Between skill building, resume development and education, the program offers an all-encompassing digital-readiness approach.

“I think getting the internal dots connected for the city of Atlanta and seeing where we can help to innovate and create there — that’s something I’m really excited about,” Smith said.

In a similarly themed initiative, Atlanta Public Schools partnered with Microsoft to launch a challenge using the popular game Minecraft in a way that resembles a digital twin city.

Beamer said that the program enhances civic engagement, allowing students not only to feel like they are a part of the city but also to generate actionable solutions that the city can implement.

Looking ahead, Beamer said the city will continue working with schools in the community, including those at the university level.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.