Jessie Adcock, Chief Digital Officer, City of Vancouver

Jessie Adcock, City of Vancouver Chief Digital Officer | BCBusiness

When the City of Vancouver announced last September it had hired someone to oversee its digital strategy, the role was a bit of a mystery. In her own words, Vancouver’s newly appointed chief digital officer tells us exactly what she plans to do

What were your thoughts when you saw the job posting for a chief digital officer?
What a great opportunity within the city where I grew up. To see where the City has come to and then creating such a key position to move its strategy forward. I was just really excited. It’s a new title, it’s a new emerging discipline. Traditional organizations have operations, finance, customer service, marketing, etcetera, but the realm of digital is an emerging discipline and it was a great opportunity to demonstrate leadership in that area.

How do you find working in government compared to the roles you held at HSBC over the past 10 years?
Stepping into an achievement-oriented culture makes the transition from private sector easy. We’re breaking new ground in Vancouver and the digital strategy has paved the way for innovation to occur around how government can deliver a better citizen experience, and how we can partner with the business community to create economic opportunities.

What is your mandate as the City’s first chief digital officer?
My mandate is to enable us as an organization to become more strategic with a view to establishing Vancouver as a leader not only in e-government, but also as a leading global digital city. My job is to champion and support the City’s efforts to make sure that digital technology makes it easier for people to do business with City Hall, creates new business opportunities for our local economy and that it facilitates engagement with our public.

What other positions will you be filling in the digital governance team?
What we’re trying to do right now is establish a model that works within the constructs of what the City already has. We’re trying to create a framework that allows us to work intelligently and hopefully to meet the needs of a lot of different groups around the city. We’ll be starting off using the resources that we have at our disposal.

Why do you think a digital strategy is important to the City of Vancouver?
Digital technology is transforming the way that we operate. The advent of technologies—the rate of information exchange—creates new expectations for businesses, and for engagement between businesses, citizens and government. The digital strategy will help us transform ourselves in a way that will enable us to modify and keep up with change in society. Where do you see the most change? Many citizens, visitors and businesses want to conduct their City business online, and that means change internally and externally. Really, I see the City moving ahead to catch up with other sectors like banking, who are already supporting a digital interface. When we achieve that digital connection, we will be a leader in e-government.

What are the hallmarks of a digitally mature city?
A digitally mature city is one where we have good connectivity and infrastructure, we have innovative services to meet the needs of people, government, employees, citizens, businesses. Open data, a strong social media strategy, connections into local businesses—all of those things foster the emergence of economic opportunities under digital.

What are your priorities for 2014 in terms of implementing the strategy?
The strategy lays out nine priority areas specifically chosen to move the dial on digital maturity, and they range from moving City services online to expanding the open-data program, but all nine together will position the city for success.

Which of those nine is focused on Vancouver’s businesses?
The strategy has four key themes and one of those themes is the digital economy, and so I think the initiatives that progress under that theme will enable us to become a leader in supporting innovation and growth in the economy and also creating partnerships between different organizations within Vancouver to generate thought leadership around what the digital economy can do.

Is there any part of the strategy that will attract more tech companies or help the ones here grow?
Absolutely. In partnership with the Vancouver Economic Commission, we’re looking at different types of programs—partner programs, proof-of-concept programs, incubator programs—for digital companies. We’re also looking internally within the City to create a favourable regulatory framework and environment that supports the digital industry specifically. The Vancouver Public Library is a key digital enabler for everyone in the city, in terms of access, education, support—the services that VPL offers, from Internet access to sessions in computer basics—those are all key enabling services. They have a very big role to play.

How are you going to measure the digital strategy’s success?
We’re developing plans that will see the number of online services increase year over year. What we’ll be looking at is evaluating metrics around assessing the number of online services and seeing where it grows to.