Is this the answer to City Hall's civic tech woes? - Technical.ly Philly

Civic

May 10, 2016 11:59 am

Is this the answer to City Hall’s civic tech woes?

The city's civic tech and open data teams are moving out of the Office of Innovation and Technology.

Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski at the opening of the city's Innovation Lab, January 2015.

(Photo by Flickr user PhillyMDO, used under a Creative Commons license)

After a tumultuous first few months under new city CIO Charlie Brennan, the Office of Innovation and Technology’s civic tech and open data teams are moving to a different department.

Led by Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski, the two teams will become the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation and report to Chief Administrative Officer Rebecca Rhynhart, the city announced this morning.

“This will allow OIT to focus on the core legacy systems and IT services to departments that are sorely in need of modernization,” Rhynhart said in a statement. “At the same time, this new structure elevates the prominence of the initiatives of open data and digital transformation.”

With Wisniewski at the helm of the office, it’s a return to the leadership structure that existed before Brennan.

It’s a move that reflects Brennan’s interests and expertise — he’s more focused on updating the city’s legacy systems than running an innovation team — as well as Rhynhart’s stated goal of making the city “more efficient and effective.” She also oversees Andrew Buss’s innovation management team, which used to be housed at OIT.

The civic tech team is currently working on alpha.phila.gov, a re-imagining of the city’s website, but complained of a lack of leadership and autonomy, once CIO Adel Ebeid and Civic Tech Director Aaron Ogle left. This change seems like a way to tackle both of those problems.

Former Chief Data Officer Mark Headd cheered the move:

While Ogle raised a concern:

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