What’s New in Civic Tech: What Do State Chief Data Officers Do?

Pew Charitable Trusts[1] has released a new analysis that examines the evolving role of the state chief data officer[2] (CDO).

This analysis, dubbed What Do State Chief Data Officers Do?[3], is available on Pew’s website and features a map of which states have chief data officers, as well as how those positions came to be. Essentially, the information boils down to whether a CDO gig is required by a law, created by an executive order or appointed at the discretion of state leadership. This new analysis is a sort of elaboration on another report released by Pew last month, How States Use Data to Inform Decisions[4]. Both documents speak to an increasingly vital truth within the gov tech sector: that data work is becoming vital to government at the state level.

To put this all in perspective, the new Pew analysis notes that CDOs first emerged from the private sector in the early 2000s before taking root in state government — the first such position being created by Colorado in 2010. “Since then, 18 states and Washington, D.C., have instituted the position through laws, executive orders, gubernatorial appointment and agency designation to better manage and analyze data,” the analysis notes.

As far as answering the central question of the analysis — what do state CDOs do? — it uses the example of the response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas, which saw data from multiple state agencies contribute quality data that a state data coordinator was then able to draw from in helping to facilitate efficient storm response.

“CDOs create data-driven solutions for intermittent issues like hurricanes and traffic events, as well as for chronic problems like poverty,” the authors of the analysis wrote.

Chicago’s Cook County seeks a chief data officer

Chief data officer (CDO) positions also appear to be on the rise at the county level.

Cook County, Ill., which is home to Chicago and one of the most prominent county governments in the nation, is currently searching to hire a new CDO[5]. In Cook County, the role provides “organizational governance and policy directives around data usage and leads the effort to ensure that the best information is accessible for facilitating data-driven decision making and innovation across the county,” according to a job posting for the position on the county’s website. The CDO in Cook County is also responsible for managing a team of information management professionals and a staff that handles the technology side of communications, including the county websites, social media, email, video and audio.

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