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The California Department of Technology (CDT) announced Monday, Feb. 8 that it has launched an Office of Digital Innovation and Technology Engagement that will focus on developing cost-effective, open source solutions for the state. The new office, which will be managed by State Geographic Information Officer Scott Gregory and his team, will develop a testing environment called the California Innovation Lab within the state's private cloud.

CDT said the office was created to lead a culture of innovation that will increase government and citizen engagement in California, and to drive the department forward as a thought leader and technology innovator in state government.

"This mode of communication — between government and the citizen — strengthens and bolsters our democracy,” said Chris Cruz, chief deputy director of operations for the CDT.  “This project will create an important link between what we promise and what we deliver as a trusted government partner to effectuate civic engagement.”

The first major initiative of the new office will be the innovation lab, which CDT says will be a “tech habitat” for California government organizations to build, test and deploy open source technologies within the state's data center. The department said the lab will be the impetus for a radical shift in how the state develops potential technology offerings and enables transparency.

"Delivering the promise of a new conversation between government and citizenry is the impetus of this project,” Cruz said on a post on CDT's blog. “Through it, we provide transparent access to taxpayer derived data and content, the potential for more cost-effective and efficient technology solutions while engendering a climate of civic innovation that will increase governmental and citizen engagement in the safety and security of CalCloud.”

An application that helps citizens and government to understand the quantity of sustainable products that departments purchase will be the first application managed and developed within the innovation lab's open source environment. The application, written in the Ruby on Rails Web application framework, was developed during a sustainability code-a-thon hosted last year by the California Department of General Services.

The Office of Digital Innovation and Technology Engagement will leverage the state's current investments in data and information, CDT said, and will be tasked with creating new and innovative approaches to information sharing that will enable data-driven decision-making. The open source technologies developed within the office will focus on agile, efficient and cost-effective offerings.

In tandem with the new office and innovation lab, CDT said it will develop policies and usage standards around the use of open source technology within the state's open source cloud environment. The policies and standards will leverage industry best practices and lessons learned from the open source community.

The Government Operations Agency and CDT will host an Open Data Forum Feb. 29 at the CDT Training and Education Center for state entities to learn about the new Office, open source offerings and options for open data platforms and service providers.