Los Angeles

LA's First-Ever Chief Data Officer Loves Hackers

Nemani previously worked at Google and most recently served as co-executive director of the non-profit organization Code for America.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s new hire has numbers on the brain, but luckily that’s his job.

A transplant from the tech world, 25-year-old Abhi Nemani hopes to bring his experience to bear as Los Angeles’ first chief data officer.

"I’m ready to hit the ground running," Nemani said. "It’s great to be directly inside the system helping to promote change."

The announcement Wednesday of the new position follows last year's relaunch of the open data DataLA website and reflects the mayor’s trends toward data-driven policy making.

Open data refers to information that is openly released to the public for use by anybody.

Nemani said he wants to use the website, which works as a central depository for numbers including employment rates, crime data and information on city services, to make a more effective government in Los Angeles.

"Oftentimes the city or communities have the data," Nemani said. "What’s needed is leadership to bring data and technology together effectively."

Los Angeles isn't the first city to help data become more useful to citizens.

In Chicago, a government-sponsored application gave residents the location of the nearest free flu shot to stave off the seasonal disease.

In New York, a group of number-crunchers devised a way to use massive amounts of property and inspection data to determine what properties in the city were most at risk of fires and other problems.

"I'm pleased that Abhi Nemani is joining my team to manage the collection of data citywide and create tools to use data that will help solve everyday challenges for our residents," Garcetti said in a statement.

Nemani is currently the only member of his staff, which is housed in the office of the Deputy Mayor of Budget and Innovation, but said this won’t stop him from tackling major problems, such as traffic and water usage that are especially prevalent in Southern California.

Nemani previously worked at Google and most recently served as co-executive director of the non-profit organization Code for America, but started his career in political organizations.

"I was always kind of the nerd in the room," Nemani said. "I found that the beauty of the Internet was that complex things could actually be made simple if you had the right tools."

In his position, the city’s new data chief said he hopes to put information in the hands and the hard drives of what he calls civically-minded "hackers" and experts who can create tools for fellow citizens to use.

"'Hacker' is not a bad word anymore," he said.

Nemani’s first day on the job is Sept. 2.

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