Anchorage’s aims to be more innovative with new hire

ANCHORAGE — The city of Anchorage is investing in a new approach to technology in an effort to better serve its citizens.

The city has hired its first chief innovation officer. Brendan Babb, who filled the newly created position last month, is charged with creating innovative ways to use technology and government data to improve how the city delivers service.

As part of the effort, Anchorage has launched an online tool that allows residents to report infrastructure problems and track the city’s progress in getting them fixed.

“Maybe at the end of your block there’s a stop sign that’s down: you can just go and report the information and submit it and it’ll generate a ticket number,” Babb told the Alaska Public Radio Network. “You have a number you can check in a couple days and see how far along the process is.”

Hiring innovation officers to make city services more efficient has been a growing trend among the country’s larger cities, such as Boston and Chicago, Babb said. The job as well as the new online program also fits in with Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s open data initiative, which is aimed at making information collected by the city useful for residents.

“My pitch is to get data to flow to residents more easily, and where they’re already looking,” Babb said.

A city spokesman says Babb is earning $140,000 a year in the new position.

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