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Florida Names First Chief Data Officer

Nancy Sampson, the former Information Technology Services director for the state Department of Financial Services, Division of Rehabilitation and Liquidation, started her new position on Friday, Oct. 27.

The state of Florida has hired its first-ever chief data officer, one of two related positions it will fill by year's end.

Nancy Sampson, the former Information Technology Services director for the state Department of Financial Services (DFS), Division of Rehabilitation and Liquidation, took over her new position on Friday, Oct. 27, a state official said. She’ll be responsible for defining a vision and strategy for state data management and governance.

Erin Choy, spokesperson for Florida's Agency for State Technology (AST), said Sampson’s core mission will be to develop an enterprisewide catalog of data streams generated by state agencies, aggregating structured and unstructured data and ultimately making it readable and usable to staff and citizens alike.

Sampson will have until June 30, 2018, to “create an enterprise data inventory,” Choy said. But she’ll also be tasked with creating one centralized listing of all that information, and then using it to recommend options for developing and maintaining publicly accessible state data portals.

“A lot of them we know are there, but there’s no document of record in a central place,” Choy explained, referring to state data. “That’s her initial charge, and quite a heavy lift.”

“In her previous role with DFS, I think she had a very strong understanding and knowledge on the application development side. That will obviously be very important to gather disparate data types and try to standardize the types of data the state holds,” Choy said.

At DFS, where Sampson served for 13 years, she managed IT staff and was responsible for the division’s IT resources and services including business application design and development, IT project management, and data analysis and conversion.

Sampson, whose position was authorized by the Legislature in July as part of the 2017-2018 General Appropriations Act after earlier state legislative scrutiny, will gain an important ally later this year. AST is “finalizing” interviews to hire a new geographic information officer (GIO) and plans to have the person on-board by month's end.

The new GIO will be responsible for working with state agencies to update, catalog and leverage GIS data, Choy said, noting that hurricanes Harvey and Irma have reminded state officials of the extent to which GIS data can aid first responders.

“Having a centralized focus where agencies can leverage this information and data sets will be very important,” Choy said.

And the state’s efforts to modernize its GIS information have not gone unnoticed.

In October, the National States Geographic Information Council recognized the AST Enterprise GIS Workgroup with a Geospatial Excellence Award for establishing the group, creating a GIS open data portal, standing up Florida’s first-ever GIS resources and information page, and, after demonstrating a business case, opening the GIO position.

“That was very exciting for us because it’s an effort that’s been a long time coming,” Choy said, noting Florida was one of only two states that didn’t have a central coordinating authority for GIS data.

Theo Douglas is news editor for Government Technology. He was previously assistant managing editor for Industry Insider — California. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news.