Anchorage's chief innovation officer wants to make data more accessible

Published: May. 25, 2016 at 6:12 PM AKDT
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Putting data at people's fingertips. That's the job of the city's new tech czar. The Municipality of Anchorage announced this week that it hired Brendan Babb as its new chief innovation officer, tasked with expanding Anchorage's open data initiative, according to a statement from city hall.

Anchorage adopted an open data policy last month, and now Babb will work to use it to encourage participation in local government.

"Mayor Berkowitz's administration is interested in being as transparent as possible and sharing this data that's created by taxpayer dollars and sharing that data back to the citizens in a way they can easily access it," Babb said.

Babb describes this opportunity as his "dream job," and has experience as a data scientist and software developer. He has previously worked with Code for Anchorage and the Municipality to create a variety of tools using available data.

One such tool allows people to text "bus" to 312-2060 to check if their bus is on time. Another lets people find out if they qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children benefits. They can do that by texting "food" or "child" to 312-2300.

Soon, the municipality and Code for Anchorage will work together to incorporate real-time bus data into Google Maps, which will show any delays on bus routes in real time.

Babb will also be working internally to increase productivity by finding ways to streamline government.

"My goal is to help departments take some of that off their plates and see if we can get them working more efficiently and increase the capacity to deliver fantastic services to citizens," Babb said.