Chicago gets new chief geek

June 26, 2013

(City of Chicago)
Brenda Berman

Chicago got its new senior geek on Wednesday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel nominated a new chief information officer and commissioner for the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT).

The nominee, Brenna Berman, is currently the acting commissioner and served as first deputy under her predecessor Brett Goldstein.

DoIT is responsible for consolidating and opening Chicago’s data between departments and to the public. It has also created a slew of data-driven tools to help city departments and officials make decisions about city services.

“Throughout her career, Brenna has been a champion for leveraging data and technology to ensure that governments provide the best service possible for their residents, and I am proud to nominate her to lead our Department of Innovation and Technology,” Emanuel said in a statement.

If her nomination is approved, Brenna would lead the department in a position that was given additional powers by an executive order in 2012. DoIT was formerly known as Business Information Systems and was renamed in 2007.

The position of chief data officer, a role that was also held by Goldstein, has not yet been named. That position was created in 2011, and formalized by the same executive order. Comment from the mayor's office on who and when that position would be filled was not immediately available.

The department has been credited with creating programs that improve officials and law enforcement’s ability to monitor relevant data in real-time. The department developed many of the data-driven tools to monitor 911/311 calls, calls to various city departments, as well as social media analysis during the NATO summit in 2012.

The department has been touted by the mayor as an example of data-driven government. But its detractors say it focuses on minor city services and not on major policy decisions of the city.

“I am honored to continue to serve the people of Chicago and excited to continue building upon the groundbreaking projects we’ve developed over the past two years to keep Chicago at the forefront of government innovation,” Berman said in a statement issued by the city.

The nomination still needs to be approval by the City Council.

Correction & Clarification:
A previous version of this article stated that the Department of Innovation and Technology was created in 2012. While an executive order bestowed more powers to the department and its commissioner, the Chief Data Officer position was created in 2011 and futher empowered in 2012. The DoIT was renamed from a previous iteration in 2007. Before that, it was called Business Information Systems. This article has been updated to reflect that.

Elliott Ramos is a data reporter and Web producer for WBEZ. Email at eramos@wbez.org and follow him @ChicagoEl.