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Boston City Hall

Why Boston's City Hall Wants A Chief Digital Officer

Attention techies: Boston is launching a nationwide recruiting drive for the city's new chief digital officer position.

Attention, civic tech gurus: The city of Boston is hiring a chief digital officer. Mayor Marty Walsh announced last Wednesday that the city, which anchors America's third-largest startup hub, is launching a huge initiative for local high-tech firms. Along with the new CDO position, Boston also announced plans to open a city-funded startup incubator, streamlined assistance for local startups dealing with immigration issues, and a new program to provide undisclosed government assistance to startups.

Boston City Hall will recruit nationally for the CDO post. The new hire will helm the city's digital outreach efforts, and will be responsible for supervision of the city of Boston's website, television station, and civic social media interaction with citizens. As Walsh told assembled guests at a Boston Chamber of Commerce Breakfast, "We’re looking for a dynamic leader to enhance our position as the nation’s most digitally connected city." His announcement was part of a larger presentation which also included plans to convert a large amount of city-owned real estate across Boston to commercial use.

Walsh became Boston's mayor at the beginning of 2014, succeeding longtime mayor Thomas Menino. Walsh's chief of staff is Daniel Arrigg Koh, who has an unusual CV for a mayoral advisor: His last job was as general manager for Huffington Post Live.

In comments made to the Boston Herald, Koh said that "The first avenue people use to approach government is online. It’s important to put just as much—if not more—care into our Internet presence as our phone presence, our physical presence."

Beyond being at the center of a major technology ecosystem which includes MIT, Harvard University, and Route 128 corridor (home to, among others, iRobot, Raytheon, and a host of other tech companies), Boston faced a grim test of their government's social media presence last year. Following the Boston Marathon bombings, the city's Twitter and Facebook outreach was featured front and center in the aftermath of the terrorist attack and subsequent manhunt.

According to a Gartner study, more than 20% of government organizations are expected to either announce a chief digital officer or to have already adopted one in 2014. The role is a hybrid of chief technical officer, chief data officer, and governmental publicist; CDOs are expected to assist government agencies in conducting public outreach online and to increase the efficiency of government through new tech adoption.

[Image: Flickr user See-ming Lee]

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