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Dessa Gypalo

Chief Data Officer, Illinois

Illinois Chief Data Officer Dessa Gypalo
From taking on the role of Cook County, Ill.’s inaugural chief data officer (CDO) in June 2018 to becoming the CDO for the state within the Department of Innovation and Technology (DOIT) in April 2021, Dessa Gypalo has helped shape the role of chief data officer in Illinois. As CDO, she prioritizes getting beyond the numbers and looking at the work as storytelling, examining what narrative the data is telling stakeholders.

In her time at the state, she has used data to evaluate student outcomes and worked on a master data management initiative with the Health and Human Services Innovation Incubator. These projects were underway prior to Gypalo’s involvement, but her goal is to help establish strong data governance for these large, cross-agency initiatives, ensuring that data security is prioritized at every turn.

At the county level, Gypalo spent her time on coalition-building and data evangelism to spread awareness of the value of data to partners and other stakeholders. Coming to the state, the infrastructure was more mature. But since her State Data Practice team is the newest division of DOIT, she can still shape its foundation with key values that will position it well for future growth.

“Everything we do is going to touch on ethics; everything we do is going to touch on equity,” said Gypalo.

Her strategy is to incorporate these values when launching any new initiative, using a three-pronged strategy: expand data awareness, create an enterprise data management environment and develop a culture of collaboration. Gypalo is focused on the right things when it comes to putting these practices to work in government, as she wrote for Government Technology in 2019:

“Government has a duty to be mindful and intentional in its data collection and usage practices. By creating an ethical framework within public institutions, we are poised for a future where government is seen as a trusted innovator when providing services for all residents, including the most vulnerable.”
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.