A former deputy chief of staff to Mayor Muriel Bowser is set to be confirmed as the District’s Chief Technology Officer, who leads a department with over a hundred workers managing the government’s IT infrastructure.
Lindsey Parker takes over as city agencies build the website for the Paid Family Leave Act and ensure the District creates the online infrastructure for publicly financed campaigns before the 2020 election. (The latter project is falling behind schedule; it’s unclear whether it will be up and running by July 31, the next filing deadline for the 2020 election cycle.) The office also runs a high-speed fiber network for D.C. buildings and manages the government’s telecommunications.
Parker, who began in the mayor’s office in 2015 and previously worked for the Adrian Fenty administration, has been acting Chief Technology Officer since Jan. 7. The D.C. Council votes on her confirmation Tuesday.
A top issue for the Office of Chief Technology Officer is protecting the city from hackers. Most recently, over the summer, the city defended against phishing emails looking to compromise passwords and information from employees. Last May, the social security numbers of nurses were exposed to cyber attackers, the Washington Post reported.
A 2017 report from the D.C. Auditor that addressed data security found that the “District government lags behind the private sector” in protecting personal identity information of employees, residents, and others in the city’s system. Another report that year said that OCTO did not sufficiently help guide the buildout of IT infrastructure for the launch of the D.C. Business Center, a portal for business owners. It said OCTO, following its statutory mandate, should be taking a more “robust” role in “developing and operating information technology systems.”
In a statement to City Paper last week, D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson said the reports “raise concerns about the Office of the Chief Technology Officer and whether the office is measuring up to its responsibilities under the D.C. Code.”
The issues safeguarding personal information and troubles launching a new IT system “suggest the Mayor and Council should make sure OCTO has the resources necessary to fulfill its statutory role,” the statement said. “That includes having agency leadership with the experience necessary to give direction to the rest of the government on IT policy, IT system investments, and cybersecurity. I have shared those concerns with Councilmembers, and hope they use our reports in the confirmation process.”
Parker told the Committee on Government Operations on Feb. 8 that protecting the District government’s “information assets” was one of her four goals.
“Given our seat in the nation’s capital, we are an easy target for the same forces interested in targeting the federal government,” Parker said at a committee roundtable. “We know what we need to do to harden our security posture to bring us up to industry standards to protect the information our residents have faith in us to use and secure.”
Speaking about her confirmation vote Tuesday, Council Chair Phil Mendelson said Monday that “I have heard no negative comments from members so I expect that will go through.”
Matt Bailey, co-founder of Code for DC and D.C.’s first director of technology innovation, said at the roundtable that OCTO needs to modernize its “contracting and delivery practices” and recruit top talent in the technology sector.
“OCTO needs and deserves a unicorn like Ms. Parker,” Bailey told the Committee on Government Operations. “In my direct experience she understands, sometimes in excruciating detail, how D.C. actually works. She knows enterprise IT and modem delivery practices.”
Parker said her other three goals are retaining and attracting top employees, improving user experiences, and prioritizing innovation.
“Lindsey Parker is a patient listener, a trait that will serve her well but allow her to stand out among CTOs,” said Neil Albert, president and CEO of the Downtown DC Business Improvement District.
Mitch Ryals contributed to this report.