Tim Wisniewski, the city’s 311 app project manager, is now Philadelphia’s first Director of Civic Technology, the city’s Managing Director’s Office announced on its blog yesterday. The move was first discussed internally as early as last fall, though not formalized until recently.
In this new leadership position, which doesn’t appear to exist on any other municipal IT team in the country, Wisniewski will work with the civic hacking community to put the city’s open data to practical use. He’ll also work with city agencies to figure out ways to use technology to make government more efficient, according to the announcement.
The creation of the position could be seen as city government saying that it’s serious about taking its ongoing open data efforts and putting them to practical uses — it’s an important part of the open data conversation, as we’ve previously written.
Wisniewski’s other main responsibility, to work on using technology to make city government more efficient, is not to be understated. It’s a priority we’ve heard before, as Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid has said that the Nutter administration’s $120 million effort to upgrade the city’s IT is about using technology to improve city workflow. If anything, Wisniewski’s new role could provide a layer of accountability — now city workers know who to turn to if they frustrated with outdated technology (say, typewriters).
The new position seems tailor-made for Wisniewski, who, before he became a city employee a year ago, was a regular on the local civic hacking circuit (where he had earned the nickname “the Hacker in Black” for his dark wardrobe, though that seems to have diversified of late). Like new Chief Data Officer Mark Headd, Wisniewski is no pure bureaucrat, toting a more-than-serviceable self-taught programming knowledge and an earnest exterior that hasn’t been entirely stripped 12 months into his city career.
His previous projects include TextBlast, a text alert app for community organizations, PhillyAddress, a property data search tool Wisniewski started working on at Philly Tech Week 2011’s Open Gov Hackathon, and AnalyzetheVote, an election data visualization tool he built for the City Commissioner’s Office. Wisniewski, 24, lives in Port Richmond and joined the city’s 311 team after working for the now-defunct Frankford Special Services District.