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Gov Tech Veteran Krista Canellakis Joins U.S. Digital Response

After high-level jobs for the state of California and San Francisco, Canellakis will now oversee USDR’s new Digital Service program. The group launched when tech pros volunteered to help solve pandemic-related challenges.

Krista Canellakis headshot
Krista Canellakis, a government technology veteran who has worked for the city of San Francisco and the state of California, has joined the nonprofit group U.S. Digital Response (USDR).

She has taken over as Digital Service program lead for the organization, according to a USDR spokesperson.

The organization came together during the pandemic as a volunteer effort for government technology professionals who wanted to use their expertise to help solve the many critical challenges caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. USDR was assembled largely by Code for America alumni and veterans of the chief technology office under the Obama administration.

In her new role, she “will spearhead the organization’s new Digital Service program, which seeks to support digital teams inside of government through scalable tools and approaches to delivering resident-centered services,” the spokesperson said. “Krista will also lead USDR’s work supporting governments to expand broadband access.”

Canellakis most recently worked as the deputy secretary for general services for the California Government Operations Agency.

Before that, she was chief innovation officer for the city and county of San Francisco. She also was co-founder of UrbanKIT, where she, according to her LinkedIn profile, “built (a) crowd-funding platform for funding public space improvement projects.”

In an email interview with Government Technology, Canellakis said her experience will inform her work at USDR.

“In the nine years I’ve worked in the public sector at the local and state level, I’ve developed a point of view on the gaps and levers of change to make government work better for people, based on both successes and scars,” she said. “I joined USDR so that I could share this experience across many government entities.”

More specifically, she recalled programs during her time with the county and city of San Francisco that will guide her in the new job — programs that involved close work among the public and private sectors. One was Civic Bridge, which recruits public-sector experts to work with government employees on city issues.

“Civic Bridge paired pro bono volunteers with skills in design, data, technology, and communications with San Francisco public servants to collaboratively tackle mayoral challenges,” she said. “When structured and scoped well, volunteers can help accelerate outcomes for government and find meaningful ways to contribute to their community in the process. USDR is making this work at a huge scale.”

According to USDR, the group has worked on more than 300 projects involving more than 230 government and nonprofit organizations. USDR says it has more than 7,000 pro-bono specialists in its community. The group’s areas of expertise include procurement and vendor evaluation, election management and vaccine access.

The job taken by Canellakis is full time and paid — and she expects to tackle significant challenges as public agencies continue to become more digital and learn from what has already worked.

“We want to understand the shared needs of digital teams inside of government and help to develop tools, policies, prototypes and resources that can be replicated or used at scale,” she said. “This could look like helping one government adopt a tool developed for another government, helping states roll out their digital equity and broadband programs or collating policies, templates and resources for hiring, procurement and forms.”
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.