The city gets a chief digital officer: Rachel Sterne

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It's been six months since the Bloomberg Administration created the role of Chief Digital Officer, and they've been combing resumes since to fill the spot. Today they did, naming Rachel Sterne, the 27-year-old founder of citizen journalism site GroundReport and an adjunct professor of social media and entrepreneurship at the Columbia Business School.

Katherine Oliver, the mayor’s office of media and entertainment commissioner, had posted a job description on the city’s site asking for someone who can “help develop forward-thinking policies on social media, digital communications, web 2.0 initiatives and other tools to better serve the public,” and get a salary between $75,000 to $125,000 per year.

“Rachel is someone who has been an influencer in the social media sphere and a civic journalism entrepreneur,” Oliver said in a statement. “She will be a terrific advocate for digital media while at the same time helping to hone the City’s use of social media for years to come.”

Sterne will also serve as an advocate for the city's digital media and tech scene.

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Local startups and venture capitalists have not always been happy with the Bloomberg administration: For more than 10 years, the city has been in conversations with leaders of the scene, who have been asking for support for the existing tech community—with more "digital native" liasons and possible rent abatements, for exampleand a focus on tech entrepreneurship in schools. NYC Convergence recently interviewed some start-up founders who have been unhappy with intiatives so far.

Part of Sterne’s job will be to help smooth these contentions by opening up the communication lines between the startup scene and the city.

A Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. native, Sterne studied history at New York University. Prior to starting GroundReport, a hyperlocal news platform for citizen reporters all over the world, in 2006, she worked in business development at LimeWire and was a political intern for the State Department on the United Nations Security Council. She also consulted startups and businesses in social media and marketing before taking the chief digital officer position.

"I can’t imagine a more exciting challenge than helping to evolve digital government in the greatest city on earth," Sterne wrote in an email to Capital.

"The focus of my role is to help the city use technology to better serve citizens, and to save tax payers money by making our services more efficient and accessible online. In more concrete terms, I will start with a listening campaign that asks citizens and City agencies for their ideas, requests, and complaints on the City’s digital resources. This will be part of a 90-day report that analyzes our city’s current digital and social media resources, and outlines next steps for both policy and initiatives."

Asked about the challenges that come along with the post, she wrote, "Every worthwhile initiative has challenges, including this one. In government, it’s crucial to keeps costs low and find creative solutions that don’t require tax payer dollars to implement. Thankfully, I can draw on my experience and network from running GroundReport in that respect. In addition, for an incredible city like New York City, it will be crucial that I work with city agencies to make sure that I am helping them do their jobs better. That will be a challenge as there are over 70 agencies, but it’s an integral step. But above all, I am thrilled to take on this role at a time when the Mayor and the City have made it clear that supporting innovation is a priority and enhancing New York City’s customer service is a priority."

"New York City was recently named No. 1 for young entrepreneurs, and we’re just getting started," she wrote.