Arkansas officials named Joshua McGee as the new state chief data officer. McGee will retain his current professor position with the University of Arkansas and plans to apply academia data tools to state government.
The Arkansas Department of Transformation and Shared Services (TSS) announced the appointment of Joshua McGee as the state’s new chief data officer (CDO).
McGee fills a state position that has remained vacant for the past year and a half. Meanwhile, Deputy State CDO Adita Karkera, who served in the interim, will return to her role within the Division of Information Systems (DIS).
Speaking with Government Technology, McGee said the CDO role aligns with his interests because of his passion for using data and evidence to improve government policies and practices.
McGee’s background includes work as a research assistant professor at the University of Arkansas; a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a free market think tank; and industrial engineering consulting with Tyson Foods prior to obtaining his Ph.D. He will retain his position with the university while serving as the state's CDO.
“It may look a little like I’ve got experience in a bunch of different fields, but for me there’s a thread tying it all together and that’s the use of data and evidence to improve effectiveness and efficiency, whether that be in the private sector or public sector,” McGee said. “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to use my experience and knowledge to hopefully accelerate the effort here in Arkansas that’s already underway.”
Under Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas underwent a reorganization of cabinet-level positions last year, reducing the number of directors from 42 to 15 secretaries. At that time, the effort was spearheaded by then-Chief Transformation Officer Amy Fecher, who now oversees TSS.
Fecher said in a prepared statement that the hiring of McGee aligns with the mission of continued transformation in Arkansas government.
“We are excited to have Dr. McGee serve as the state’s Chief Data Officer in a collaborative effort with the University of Arkansas.” Fecher said in the release. “His unique experience brings a fresh perspective to state government."
As a bridge between the university system and the state, McGee said he will apply academic tools for integrating and analyzing data. He said his goal is to develop a plan where DIS can provide actionable insight into agencies and high-profile programs using tools like open data portals.
“I think it’s martialing our resources and figuring out which direction we want to go,” McGee said. “A lot of that groundwork has been done by internal staff here, so I think I’m in a luxury position of coming in, being able to take that and run with it.”