PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Governor Gina M. Raimondo today announced Richard Culatta as Rhode Island’s first Chief Innovation Officer. Culatta will lead an effort to find better approaches to provide more opportunities for all Rhode Islanders, and improve government services, while reducing costs and increasing transparency.
«Part of creating opportunities for all Rhode Islanders is putting their needs first, and turning away from how government has always done things,» Raimondo said. «We need new approaches, both in the way government operates, and in the types of businesses we attract and nurture here. The role of the Chief Innovation Officer will be about opening up government and using data to solve problems.»
«To effectively serve citizens, government needs to become competent in the digital age and work with the private sector to tackle challenges that are too big for either to solve on their own,» Culatta said. «In so doing, Rhode Island has the opportunity to become a nationally-recognized innovation hub and an example for the rest of the country of how to make government move faster at a reduced cost.»
Culatta, a Rhode Island native, recently left his role as Senior Advisor to former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He also served as the Executive Director of the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology.
«At a time when many in government are asked to do more with less, it is vital to think more creatively, and embrace new approaches to reaching and informing people,» former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. «Nationally recognized as an innovative leader in government, Richard helped our team pioneer new approaches for using technology to engage with citizens and improve government impact through public and private partnerships. It will be exciting to see what new ideas he will pursue in Rhode Island.»
«Richard was a serial entrepreneur inside government,» Deputy Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Tom Kalil said. «From reducing the digital divide with ConnectED, to developing new models for bringing highly-talented individuals into government, Richard was focused on using all the tools he had to support student learning. I look forward to watching Richard tap the best of Rhode Island’s creative talent to move the state forward.»
At the Department of Education, Culatta led Datapalooza, an initiative to make government data more publicly accessible in computer-readable form and spur the use of that data by entrepreneurs as fuel for the creation of new products, services and jobs.
Recognizing that talent is key to innovation, he also developed new models for bringing highly-talented individuals into government to solve tough problems, including helping form the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Innovation Fellows worked on a variety of projects such as:
• Making it easier for government to do business with small, high-growth tech companies, thus enabling the government to buy better, lower-cost tech solutions, costing 30 percent less on average than prior bidding systems
• Supporting schools’ transition to openly-licensed educational materials, saving millions of dollars while replacing outdated traditional textbooks
The Office of Innovation, located at Rhode Island College, and supported by the Rhode Island College Foundation, will be a central hub for innovation efforts in the state. The office is responsible for making government more efficient, cost-effective, and responsive to citizen needs while accelerating and promoting innovations in the private sector across the state.
«The presence of the Innovation Office at Rhode Island College underscores the critical role public higher education plays in the Rhode Island economy,» Rhode Island College President Dr. Nancy Carriuolo said. «We are delighted to host this initiative and look forward to involving our talented faculty and students in statewide innovation efforts.»
«The Rhode Island College Foundation believes that the Innovation Office is a smart investment for the college and the larger Rhode Island community,» Rhode Island College Foundation Board of Directors Chair William Hurry said. «The new research and development opportunities afforded the Rhode Island College community will complement Rhode Island College’s valuable educational experience, while the office’s outcomes will benefit all Rhode Islanders, including more than 39,000 Rhode Island College alumni currently residing in our state.»