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Lea Eriksen

Director of Innovation and Technology/CIO, Long Beach, Calif.

Long Beach CIO Lea Eriksen
Frank Rogozienski
Reimagining the Long Beach IT department’s role as more than only an office that maintains the smooth running of internal technology to a broader vision that includes civic resiliency, smart city projects, digital services and data privacy is what Lea Eriksen has helped to develop in this Southern California city.

“I definitely wanted to shift the discussion from our department as just an internal service provider to a strategic partner to our department, and then also a convener and collaborator on issues that are of critical importance to the city and our residents,” Eriksen said.

Eriksen was named director of technology and innovation in 2018, after some 20 years working in local government. She also serves as CIO of the city of Long Beach, in charge of implementing the city’s technology vision, overseeing a staff of 173 and managing a $57.2 million operating budget.

She has led efforts to foster digital equity with the Digital Inclusion Roadmap and helped to develop a smart city strategy.

“And for me, digital equity is more than just making sure that our residents have access to technology devices and Internet, and know how to use it, but also making sure that our services are designed with equity in mind,” said Eriksen.

Part of Long Beach’s smart city principles revolve around earning and keeping public trust.

“And I think that’s really important. Data rights, digital privacy, transparency and data all fall into that category,” said Eriksen. Long Beach joined the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights several years ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated new tools for digital services and resiliency, though many of these tools were already in the planning stages. And like many cities, the technology clock in Long Beach will not be turned back.

“During the COVID pandemic we had so many opportunities to really take advantage of some of the foundational infrastructure that had been planned before I even got here,” said Eriksen. “That positioned us to use data and technology to really be responsive to the emerging needs that came out of the pandemic.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.