Boston’s New CIO to Focus on Unlocking City Data

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Santiago Garces will start as CIO of the New England city in May, following top roles in open-data efforts in South Bend and Pittsburgh

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“Boston has been a pioneer and a leader in the analytics space and open data,” Mr. Garces said. “One of the things that we focus on is trying to bring a story or being able to bring more context and perspective to what the underlying data is saying.”

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Mr. Garces, who is a native of Bogota, Colombia, also said he would work to expand internet and computer access to underserved populations.

In recent years, many cities have launched open-data portals to help citizens more easily find information. Boston launched one such platform, Analyze Boston, in 2017.
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Mr. Garces has rolled out similar programs during IT leadership stints in Pittsburgh and South Bend, Ind., where he is currently the city’s executive director of community investment.

As Pittsburgh’s CIO, Mr. Garces led the rollout of Dashburgh, a website with visualizations and charts on 311 requests and the percentage closed, incident reports to police and other city data, said Pittsburgh’s current CIO, Heidi Norman.

In South Bend, where Mr. Garces was the city’s first chief innovation officer from 2015 to 2019, he led operations for a police transparency portal that captured crime and incident data, and information on community complaints and investigations.

South Bend Mayor James Mueller, who as chief of staff to former Mayor Pete Buttigieg worked with Mr. Garces, said he offered a critical mix of people and technical skills that helped advance tech change in the city.

“When Mayor Pete set up a vision to be an open-data city, Santiago was the head of making sure that got implemented,” said Mr. Mueller. Mr. Buttigieg is now the US secretary of transportation.

David Eaves, a public policy lecturer at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, said past CIOs have put Boston on a solid footing, with efforts under way on cloud migration and a shift toward agile processes.

One ongoing challenge is to reach underserved populations, Mr. Eves said. Open data could “shine light on problems,” including broadband access gaps, and help inform solutions, he added.

Write to Suman Bhattacharyya at [email protected]


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