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New York hires a 'chief digital officer'

Rachel Sterne, well known for her expertise in citizen journalism, will join the mayor's team to help New York's city government better transition into the 21st century.

Rachel Sterne
Rachel Sterne (center) is NY's new chief digital officer. cc cvconnell/Flickr

After a high-profile search that began over six months ago, New York City has hired new media entrepreneur Rachel Sterne as its first "chief digital officer."

It's the latest major move made by the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, himself a billionaire entrepreneur, to shove the establishment-heavy Gotham into the 21st century.

Sterne's job won't involve wrangling the scores of small tech start-ups that have popped up like mushrooms in the city over the past few years. Rather, her focus will be to help the city government use digital technology to better communicate with residents, work to bring social media and other new tools into municipal agencies, negotiate partnerships, and serve as a representative of the technology community to the government. One early task will be making the city's official Web site,, more user-friendly and resource intensive.

She said in a statement: "My goal in this role is to help the world's greatest city become the world's most innovative city through online and mobile technologies that help citizens and enhance the quality of services."

Sterne is still several years shy of 30(!) but has been a fixture of New York's digerati for quite some time as the founder of GroundReport, a small "citizen news" site that never caught the traction of bigger competitors but that earned praise for its focus on developing countries, and as a consultant through her company Upward Strategy. She will be leaving both start-ups to take on the chief digital officer duties.