Philly hires ‘chief data officer’ to aid public access

Posted: September 07, 2012

Mark Headd, a self-taught computer programmer and self-described "civic hacking veteran," has joined the Nutter administration as the city's first "chief data officer," responsible for improving public access to information the city collects.

Under an executive order from Mayor Nutter, Headd is to work with city departments and agencies on standards and procedures for releasing city data to the public.

It's part of a broader effort to improve transparency and collaborate with private interests - academic centers, commercial ventures, and the news media, among others - that have been struggling for years to get more electronic data from the city.

Some results are already apparent. The Department of Licenses and Inspections launched a redesigned website last month,, that claims to provide a full history of L&I's activities at any city address, allowing users to find all construction, demolition, zoning and use permits, city-owned and vacant properties, and more, on an interactive map.

A more comprehensive and growing collection of regional data, from the city and other sources, is available at, a site developed by local geodata software firm Azavea.

Headd, 43, was a technology adviser to former Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper and held a series of related state jobs dealing with technology and information.

Since April, he's been director of government relations at Code for America, a California nonprofit that describes itself as "a Peace Corps for geeks," using technology to advance collaboration between governments and civic groups.

In Philadelphia, he'll be paid $138,000 a year and report to Adel Ebeid, the city's chief innovation officer.

In an interview last month, Headd said one of his top priorities would be to identify and publicize different sorts of city data already available to the public.

"There's a lot of information already out in the public domain, in one form or another, but not openly described or easy to find," he said.

Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or

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