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Innovation Lead Will Help New Jersey Modernize Process, Support the Tech Economy

Beth Simone Noveck, New Jersey's recently hired inaugural chief innovation officer, said she'll work to help the state modernize its processes and deliver better services to citizens.

New Jersey’s inaugural chief innovation officer, a longtime champion of transparency in information, said she’ll continue to rely closely on open data and input from her colleagues at the Office of Information Technology (NJOIT), residents and other resources as she begins her new position.

Beth Simone Noveck, director of the White House Open Government Initiative from 2009 to 2011 and former senior advisor for open government during then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s tenure, started in New Jersey on Aug. 13 as its innovation leader. Far from working alone, Noveck told Government Technology, she’ll be partnering with another recent hire, Chief Technology Officer Chris Rein, to help the state more fully engage its tech and innovation economy.

The New Jersey native and founder of The Governance Lab at New York University Tandon School of Engineering said she and Rein had been in conversation in advance of starting their posts to discuss the sometimes-blurry lines and complexity of titles in the innovation, technology, data and information spaces.

“We were very sure and the Governor’s office was very sure when setting this up, that actually this would be set up as a collaboration between the two offices,” said Noveck.

Her early priorities will include hearing from colleagues to understand where tech and innovation can help further existing or planned policy initiatives, as well as from residents, universities and members of the private sector about how New Jersey can modernize what it does and improve its service delivery.

Ultimately, that process may inform a range of initiatives around solving public problems, she said, noting that the state has been at the forefront of innovation over the years and is home to “major tech and biotech industry developments.”

In announcing her appointment, Gov. Phil Murphy said new ideas are vital to help bring the state into the 21st century and “reclaim our innovation economy.” Noveck said that process will involve more collaboration with the CTO and other departments to identify “untapped capacity” within government and elsewhere. At the same time, these efforts will stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation in the economy, while making business more efficient and transparent, she said.

“A lot of, I think, what I’m excited about and part of this role, is the idea of both the convening power and the kind of galvanizing power that a role like this can have, to really channel a lot of attention to the fantastic things that are already happening within the state,” said Noveck.

Asked about the connection between transparency and innovation, Noveck said the former “or, more accurately, open data and the use of the proactive opening up of government information” can enable the latter.

During the past decade, she noted, the public sector has increasingly become aware of open data’s important role — but government “has a lot of maturing to do” in using its own data and data from other sources.

“I think we can’t have innovation, we can’t really have good solutions to problems unless we understand them, and data is a piece of understanding how we solve problems,” Noveck said.

Theo Douglas is news editor for Government Technology. He was previously assistant managing editor for Industry Insider — California. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news.