Innovation event offers preview of acting USDA CIO’s priorities

Acting CIO Joyce Hunter helped plan an innovation summit sponsored by the D.C. alumni club of her alma mater, the Wharton School.

The Wharton School’s D.C. alumni club is holding a tech event this week with a boost from a graduate who now works in a top agency IT post.

The new Agriculture Department acting Chief Information Officer Joyce Hunter, who received an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania business school in 1979, has helped plan the summit since the club held its first last year. She told FedScoop that sessions would cover some key area of interest to govies: harnessing big data, improving acquisition and bringing talented people into government.

Those same topics mirror what Hunter plans to focus on in her new role, she said. In particular, she saw government data as a driver of innovation.

“It’s time for us to stop talking about data as an asset and start talking about it as a utility,” Hunter said. “It is part of our lives — it is part of what we do.”


She highlighted USDA’s own open data efforts: The Interior and Agriculture departments recently made their public lands data available in an application programming interface, or API. She also pointed to advocacy group WhyHunger, which has used USDA data to help the families of students who receive free and reduced lunch at school learn where they can get food during the summertime.

Hunter had served as deputy CIO until USDA CIO Cheryl Cook retired from her post and took a job at Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture last month. Looking ahead in her new job, Hunter said the department would be evaluating whether to start up a digital services shop in house.

“We have some of the pieces existing, so it won’t be heavy lifting for us,” she said, adding that the department is also working to bolster the cybersecurity talent within its workforce.

The Wharton event is scheduled to feature former White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Digital Service Director Mikey Dickerson, and speakers from industry, startups and academia. It is slated to take place Tuesday and Wednesday at the FHI 360 Conference Center on 1825 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

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