San Francisco CIO Leaves for World Health Organization

Marc Touitou will ply his trade as CIO in Geneva, the city announced via Twitter.

by / June 19, 2014
Marc Touitou is leaving his post as San Francisco's CIO to join the World Health Organization.

After 14 months as San Francisco’s CIO, Marc Touitou is headed out, the city announced on June 19. Touitou will take a position as CIO for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

It was a tough decision to leave the city, Touitou said -- adding that he initially turned down the WHO job offer -- but as he thought about it, he realized the new position was right for him.

"I don’t want to sound bizarre, but the idea of helping save lives and protect populations with technology, that’s pretty inspiring to me," he said of the position at WHO. "Ever since I started to do my homework on this, I keep having new ideas on that topic; this really is a different world."

Toutitou came to San Francisco with 30 years of private-sector IT experience, and he was touted as a leader in open data and innovation by Mayor Ed Lee. In an early interview with Government Technology, Touitou said one of his primary goals was to tighten up the management of city IT initiatives.

During his tenure, the city completed several innovative IT projects, including a small encrypted Wi-Fi rollout as part of the Touitou’s larger plan to bring free Wi-Fi to the entire city. In July, Google announced it would invest $600,000 with the city to help bring Wi-Fi to parks and other public areas. The start to Wi-Fi in the city was in December of 2013, when San Francisco began offering free Wi-Fi along three miles of Market Street. On the whole, Touitou said, he pushed hard to do things differently and do things faster. 

"I accelerated everything. With Market Street, we were talking for three years with AT&T, and then I took over and said, ‘No, we’re going to do it in six months,’" he said. "And we completed it in six months."

Touitou says he also led overdue work in disaster recovery, full mirroring of all financial and HR data centers, and before announcement of his departure broke, was looking to complete a Microsoft cloud rollout this summer -- which is currently 80 percent complete.

“This was glued to the floor for the last four years. Did we unglue all that?" he said. "Yeah, I think we dramatically simplified and accelerated all these half-dozen major initiatives, and it keeps going.”

In March, the city announced a collaboration with six civic technology startups as part of a four-month Entrepreneurship-in-Residence program. San Francisco's Chief Innovation Officer Jay Nath said the program could help city departments find ways to save money and run more efficiently, as they leverage companies specializing in law enforcement, air quality, urban planning, permit mapping, emergency communications, and navigation and location services.

San Francisco has yet to announce a replacement for Touitou, who said the city has a short list of candidates -- whom he would not name. 

"I can only hope that the selection of my replacement will keep the torch and keep running," he said. "There are a couple good people in San Francisco who can do that."

This story was updated on June 19 at 8:20 p.m. to include an interview with Marc Touitou. 
Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.

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