On January 24th, Jascha Franklin-Hodge stepped down as Boston's Chief Information Officer, leaving behind him an impressive set of accomplishments at a decisive moment in the city's digital evolution. Commenting on his departure, Mayor Marty Walsh noted that Franklin-Hodge "helped to bring City Hall and city services into the 21st century in just four short years." As CIO, he enhanced online service delivery for residents, empowered staffers with new technologies, and expanded digital access across the city.
Among his earliest achievements was the successful rollout of BOS:311 in 2015. Building on the 24 Hour Hotline favored by Mayor Tom Menino, BOS:311 simplified communication with City Hall and enabled civic engagement through an upgraded mobile app and social media presence. Mayor Walsh recently announced further upgrades to BOS:311. Smartphone users will now be able to type their requests straight into the app, and an evolving predictive modeling system will link them up with the appropriate city service.
More recently, Franklin-Hodge has taken the lead on Boston's adoption of small cell antennas, which will eventually line the city, inconspicuously installed into street lights and other infrastructure. Unlike traditional cell towers that cover large areas, small cell antennas will provide a strong signal over the span of a few dozen meters, a necessity for the impending proliferation of 5G wireless connectivity, which promises to vastly increase internet speed. In a recent conversation, Franklin-Hodge emphasized that his approach to small cell centered on "setting clear ground rules and guidelines up front, so companies going into this space understand the city's expectations and what residents care about." By streamlining the small cell installation process, Franklin-Hodge hopes to foster a competitive environment for service providers that will increase competition and bring down costs.
The list of Franklin-Hodge’s other achievements stretches on, from vastly improving the city's cybersecurity protocol to completely revamping Boston.gov. Beyond making the site far more attractive and navigable, Franklin-Hodge coupled a user-centered design approach with a mandate to make the site mobile-friendly to reach as many residents as possible.
More than any single product rollout or service implementation, perhaps Franklin-Hodge's most significant contribution as CIO has been his attention to behind-the-scenes people and process issues. He helped form the Boston Citywide Analytics Team in 2015, as Mayor Walsh put it, "to bring the power of data to everything we do." He also hired the city's first Chief Data Officer, and more recently, a Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate, who will support the mission to make digital innovations both widespread and accessible. In an interview for Data-Smart City Solutions, Franklin-Hodge noted that his team members need to have “the skills to both do the technical heavy lifting and the organizational heavy-lifting -- building relationships, understanding need, and understanding whose data could be an effective lever for empowerment and transformation."
His broad understanding of what it takes to create genuinely user-centered experience for citizens will no doubt be missed in City Hall, but one can't help but wonder what's next on the docket for Franklin-Hodge. From his early work as Co-Founder of Blue State Digital, working on the campaigns of Howard Dean and Barack Obama, to his continued role as an advisor for Code for America, he's left his mark on governance in many ways.