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Nick Lucius, chief data officer, Chicago

What have you accomplished in your role that you want people to know about?

Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot has asked us to bake equity into everything that we do as a government. It’s a big part of how I look at how we’re using data. One big example of that was early on in COVID, when data was coming on COVID tests and we were managing a public health pandemic, the mayor was very adamant to make sure that race, age and data were collected along with all that data coming in from the testing labs. This led to Chicago becoming the first city to release data on how the pandemic was affecting different races, and that’s what sparked a national conversation on how the COVID disease was affecting the Black population in drastically different ways.

What’s something about data and analytics that you think other people in government should know about, especially non-technical folks?

That the hardest part of it is not a technical problem. The hardest part of data and analytics is thinking through the problem that you’re trying to solve and really understanding what you’re going to do once you get the answers you’re looking for. What are you going to do next and how is that going to change something for the better? How’s it going to save you money, how’s it going to help you take your current workforce or do more or change outcomes for people who have historically been disadvantaged? Because if you’re not making sure you have an outcome you’re trying to achieve, you’re just doing data analysis for data analysis’s sake.

What’s your prediction for 2022?

That anybody that has one is making it up. I will add one thing. My prediction for 2022 is that people who work in data are just going to see themselves even more at the forefront of the conversation in business and in government than ever before. I know we’ve been saying this for years now, but I saw an acceleration over the past year and I really only see it going in one direction and that’s leaders needing to get more answers to understand how to solve the problems that they have.

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