Written byGreg Otto
For the past few months, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has referred to her department as “America’s data agency.” Now she has someone to oversee that data.
FedScoop has learned that Ian Kalin, formerly the director of open data for Socrata, has been appointed as the first chief data officer in Commerce Department history.
While at Socrata, Kalin helped governments and businesses use Socrata’s cloud-based data discovery services to create various products and services. Kalin has prior government experience, working as a nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy and serving as a Presidential Innovation Fellow under then-U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park during which he led a data initiative at the Energy Department.
Kalin’s first day was Monday.
Pritzker announced last July that she would hire a chief data officer, aiming to manage the data collection within her department, which she said “literally reaches from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun.”
“It is not hyperbole to call the Department of Commerce, ‘America’s Data Agency,'” Pritzker said at the Esri International User’s Conference in July. “No other department can rival the reach, depth, and breadth of our data programs: Our data efforts are rooted in the Constitution, which laid the groundwork for the creation of the Census Bureau and the Patent and Trademark Office, two key data agencies housed at the Commerce Department.”
Since the Commerce Department search began, chief data officers have come into vogue across the federal government. Last month, the White House named DJ Patil the nation’s first chief data scientist. The Energy Department also named a chief data officer earlier this year, while Commerce hired Lynn Overmann as a deputy chief data officer last November.
The Federal Reserve Board and Federal Communications Commission also employ chief data officers.
Pritzker is expected to announce Kalin’s appointment during a Friday panel at the South By Southwest tech conference held in Austin, Texas. Pritzker will be speaking on a panel with newly confirmed U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director Michelle Lee about how the federal government can better accelerate innovation across the country.
The Commerce Department has long been a leader when it comes to government data. Its subagencies — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, among others — produce and manage hundreds of terabytes every day.