Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

City gets its first chief innovation officer

Philadelphia is turning to the man who once modernized New Jersey's archaic driver's license system to do the same with the city's outdated information technology infrastructure.

Philadelphia is turning to the man who once modernized New Jersey's archaic driver's license system to do the same with the city's outdated information technology infrastructure.

Adel Ebeid, who is the chief information and technology officer for the state of New Jersey, plans to start work in Philadelphia on Aug. 22.

He will take over a new title as the city's first chief innovation officer. He will not only oversee the city's day-to-day technology needs, but set the strategy and priorities for future innovation.

Ebeid will report to Managing Director Richard Negrin. The city plans to announce Ebeid's hiring Friday.

Ebeid replaces former Chief Technology Officer Allan Frank, who resigned in February. Last year, Frank testified before Council that the city was operating with "at best a 1995 to 1997 network."

City workers filled out paper time sheets, Frank said, and computers lacked anti-virus software. He led a major effort to consolidate tech-support spread across 33 city departments.

Ebeid said he would not come into the job "with any preconceived notions about how the agency's doing." He said he would spend his first 100 days assessing the city's infrastructure, its ability to absorb new technolgy and the department's accountability and transparency.

"I'll make my own judgements about what's working well and needs to be preserved versus what needs to be changed," he said. "It's kind of like sailing a ship while you're building it."

Negrin said the mayor has made the city's information technology a priority.

"He's asked me to fix it. He's asked me to make sure it runs well," he said. "Technology needs to be an enabler. We need to utilize it to do things quicker, smarter and cheaper."

Ebeid was hired after a search that brought in candidates from across the country - "people you would know if you were in the tech community," Negrin said.

Ebeid was happy in New Jersey and not looking to move. Negrin said he had to convince him "to jump off a cliff" and come to Philadelphia.

"He's known for building a great team," Negrin said. "People postpone retirements to work for him."

Ebeid's former employees have gone on to become chief information officers at Goldman Sachs and Merck.

Ebeid was born in Egypt and his family came to the U.S. in 1974, when he was 10 years old. They settled in Jersey City, N.J.

Four years later, Ebeid's father died of skin cancer.

"My mom could have easily picked up all of us and gone back home," he said. "But she wanted to continue the dream my father wanted for us."

Ebeid earned an engineering degree from New Jersey Institute of Technology.

He has worked for the state of New Jersey for 23 years. He was named to the state's top tech position by Gov. Corzine, and retained by Gov. Christie.

In 2002, he tackled New Jersey's famously antiquated Motor Vehicle Commission, which was still issuing paper driver's licenses, and moved to state-of-the-art digital licenses.

"We went from being the worst in the country to really having the label of having the best," he said.

He said the licenses were just one of the initiatives to make the commission more customer-friendly and easier to navigate - something Negrin wants him to focus on in Philadelphia.

That means working on projects collaboratively with city departments and delivering them on time, as well as making the city's technology easier and more accessible for the public.

Ebeid, whose salary will be $170,000, will be in charge of 363 employees at the Division of Technology, which was created by a 2008 executive order and has a $121.6 million budget.

Ebeid said he gives Negrin credit for keeping after him and selling the idea of coming to Philadelphia.

"One I met with Rich and the mayor, once I saw how passionate they were . . . I was very excited about being a part of the team," he said.