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California CIO Amy Tong Appointed to Innovation-Focused Role

Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced that CIO Amy Tong will become the new director of the Office of Digital Innovation, a forward-looking government technology laboratory and incubator, effective next month.

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State Chief Information Officer Amy Tong is leaving that role and will become the director of the Office of Digital Innovation as of Jan. 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced late Wednesday.

Tong, 48, has been state CIO and director of the California Department of Technology since her appointment by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in June 2016. She is a veteran of state service, having served in executive roles across several departments.

Newsom proposed the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI) with his first budget in early 2019; it was approved by lawmakers that spring and is a separate entity from CDT, with both coming under the purview of the California Government Operations Agency.

Udaya Patnaik, an entrepreneur with a background in startups, was the first director of ODI, having been named to that role in June 2020. There was no mention of Patnaik in Newsom’s announcement Wednesday.

The current deputy state CIO and chief deputy director of CDT is Russ Nichols, a veteran of state government who was named to that position in March. He presumably will be acting state CIO.

In a Tweet Wednesday night, Tong’s department praised her and said: “Congratulations Amy Tong! Your CDT family is proud of you. We look forward to continuing a close partnership as you take on your new role @CaliforniaODI on January 1.”

Tong has led CDT through some pivotal changes, perhaps most significantly a shift to an agile development methodology across state government, with rapid iterative “sprints” replacing the traditional “waterfall” protocol. ODI — Tong’s destination — was created as an outgrowth of that shift.

Tong is a veteran of state service, having served as data center chief for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System from 2008 to 2011; chief technology officer for the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration from 2011 to 2012; deputy Director and Chief Information Officer at the California Lottery from 2012 to 2014; and chief deputy director of the Office of Systems Integration and agency chief information officer for the California Health and Human Services Agency from 2014 to 2016.

This article was originally published by TechWire, Government Technology's sister publication.
Dennis Noone is the managing editor of Techwire.
Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for Techwire.net, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.