(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF loses tech director to NYC

San Francisco’s director of the Department of Technology is stepping down from his post at a critical time when The City is making another attempt to roll out broadband internet service for all businesses and residents.

Miguel Gamiño, who Mayor Ed Lee appointed in December 2014 to serve as the head of the Department of Technology, is headed to New York City to work for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Among Gamiño’s duties as de Blasio’s chief technology officer will be to lead New York City’s broadband program and “further the mayor’s goal to ensure every resident and business will have access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband service everywhere by 2025,” according to de Blasio’s announcement.

San Francisco’s own effort to create citywide broadband service has seemed as slow as dial-up service, but most recently appears to be have gotten back on track as Department of Technology leaders said the department plans to hire a firm this month to study different citywide broadband models during a four-month period.

Gamiño canceled two scheduled interviews Monday with the San Francisco Examiner.

San Francisco officials said Monday that Gamiño’s departure won’t hamper citywide broadband efforts or other planned tech work. An acting director would likely be appointed from within the department. Gamiño’s last day is likely later this month.

“San Francisco remains committed to broadband and other key technology initiatives,” City Administrator Naomi Kelly, who oversees the Department of Technology, wrote in an emailed statement. “The City’s ICT [Information and Communication Technology] plan ensures that we will continue to be a center of innovation and meet our municipal technology goals.”

But the fact remains that despite being in the heart of technology innovation with Silicon Valley just south and San Francisco serving as its own thriving tech sector, The City has struggled to keep a long-term director of the Department of Technology.

Mayor Ed Lee appointed Marc Touitou to serve as the Department of Technology director in April 2013, replacing Jon Walton, who had served in that position between 2011 and January 2013. Sixteen months later, in July 2014, Touitou resigned the position to serve as the chief information officer for the United Nation’s World Health Organization based in Geneva, Switzerland.

In December 2014, the mayor appointed Miguel Gamiño as the new director of the Department of Technology. Gamiño, who joined The City’s workforce in July 2013, has a salary of $235,820 annually as director.

On Oct. 25, de Blasio tweeted, “NYC is about to get even more tech-savvy. Looking forward to
@MiguelGamino joining the team as our Chief Technology Officer.”

“I’m honored to join your team in NYC and do everything I can to contribute to great progress for New Yorkers!” Gamiño tweeted in response.

In addition to high turnover of its leadership, San Francisco’s tech department has a troubled history. Between 2005 and 2012 a number of city reports were issued detailing The City’s technology challenges, from wasteful spending to a lack of consolidation of tech functions including email service among city departments.

Last month, the San Francisco Examiner reported that the Department of Technology planned to select this month — per the “Broadband for San Francisco Project” — an outside consultant to analyze the best model to provide broadband internet access throughout The City, such as a
public-only service or a public-private service.

An April 2015 budget analyst report found that 12 percent of San Francisco residents — more than 100,000 people — lack home internet service.

Supervisor Mark Farrell, who is among those pushing for a citywide broadband network, said Monday, “I’m sad to see Miguel leave. I’ve enjoyed working with Miguel.”

Gamiño worked with Farrell in 2014 on an initiative to bring public Wi-Fi service to more than 30 parks and plazas in The City.

While Farrell said Gamiño’s departure shouldn’t hamper The City’s technology efforts, he noted that the post “is a critical role to fill.”

“It’s imperative we have a director that is well equipped with looking forward to breaking barriers in San Francisco and making a difference in everyday lives of San Franciscans,” Farrell said.

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