In recent news, Philadelphia Chief Information Officer (CIO), Mark Wheeler, will be leaving the city government to take on a limited role with the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services. Mayor Jim Kenney announced that Chief Operating Officer Sandra Carter will take over as interim CIO. Under Wheeler’s leadership, the Philadelphia Office of Innovation and Technology released a 25-page guide and timeline for the city’s ongoing and future tech-based projects. A notable accomplishment was the launch of Permit Navigator, an online tool enabling easy access to information relating to approvals for residential and business construction permits.
Moreover, Wheeler oversaw the release of Philadelphia’s first Digital Equity Plan with a five-year strategic plan to address the digital divide. In an interview with StateScoop, Wheeler shared that his proudest accomplishment during his tenure as CIO was the cybersecurity initiatives across city government. These initiatives enabled agencies to defend against serious attacks over the past five years.
Wheeler also expressed that he wished he’d had more time to think about and enact usage policies for the video surveillance cameras that the Philadelphia Police Department uses during criminal investigations. He mentioned that during the first phases of the SmartPHL plan, his department was asked to significantly expand the number of surveillance cameras, which has caused concerns about privacy, over-policing, and racial discrimination in many cities across the US. With cameras increasing in Philadelphia, a financial and strategic plan has allocated approximately $5 million to install more cameras and operate the surveillance network.
When asked about his future plans, Wheeler shared that he will be working as a consultant in the “smart city” realm and, subject to no conflicts of interest, beyond his new, limited role with the GSA. He encouraged anyone stepping into these roles for the first time to find supporting groups as they will need them.
Kenney thanked Wheeler for his contributions, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wheeler played a critical role in mobilizing remote work and information security during the pandemic. Wheeler’s leadership and passion for modernization have been appreciated during his tenure as CIO.
In conclusion, Wheeler’s departure from the Philadelphia government will leave a substantial gap in the city’s leadership role in technology transformation. While we look forward to the implementation of his replacement’s approach and continued progress towards a digital and equitable future, we also recognize and thank Wheeler for his contributions towards closing the digital divide and initiatives towards cyber-security across Philadelphia City Government.