Atlantic Cities: Philly CIO Adel Ebeid and Freedom Rings Partnership

March 19, 2012
The Atlantic Cities 

The Atlantic Cities, a project of the venerable Atlantic Monthly magazine focusing on urbanism and urban policy, recently published an in-depth article about the role of innovation in municipal governance with heavy hat tips to the City of Brotherly Love.

In “The Dawn of the Municipal Chief Innovation Officer,” Philadelphia CIO Adel Ebeid is profiled as the archetype of a growing cadre of municipal executives tasked with harnessing the internet’s democratizing and problem-solving potential in the service of public decision making.

There are, by our count, just two major cities in the U.S. that currently have someone sitting in this role, and they’ve both settled in within the past six months. Adel Ebeid stepped into the job in Philadelphia after working as the chief information officer for the state of New Jersey. Like [San Francisco Chief Innovation Officer Jay Nath], he views his role largely as connecting city hall and all of its resources with a new generation of problem-solvers outside of it.

The Atlantic Cities piece also highlights the Freedom Rings Partnership, a digital literacy initiative funded by Federal Recovery dollars, as an example of innovation-based municipal governance at work.

Ebeid cites as one of his favorite projects so far something called the Freedom Rings Partnership. Philadelphia has one of the widest digital divides in the country; 41 percent of residents there don’t have access to a computer or the Internet. This public-private partnership established training at 77 public computer centers across the city. More than a hundred people have already graduated from the program – and been given their own netbook.

So where exactly is the innovation in all that?

“The innovation is that we’ve figured out what is a real pressing problem for our city,” Ebeid says, “and we came up with a public-private partnership that solved the issue in the most expedient way at the lowest unit cost possible.”

As they say, read the whole thing.


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