Chief Innovation & Emerging Technologies Officer Profile | Simone Babb
When Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings appointed Simone Babb as the new Chief Innovation & Emerging Technologies Officer in September 2022, she came with a robust background across various areas of emerging technology and planning, which was critical for a county that continues to create a culture that supports innovation and allows for advanced technology infrastructure, and also continues to become a future-ready region for its residents and visitors.
In her role, Babb’s general responsibilities include driving and managing organizational innovation initiatives and leveraging emerging technologies to enhance the quality of life of local residents. “Orange County has a tremendous appreciation for and supports innovation, and we want to continue to position ourselves as a leader in this area,” she explained. “To fulfill this, I work with and create public/private partnerships to advance technologies and opportunities.”
A graduate of the University of Central Florida (Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering), Babb’s experience includes the development of policy and programs, research, demonstration, testing and deployment. She has worked with a variety of vendors and is apt to getting out in the field and being hands on.
“What better way to prove concepts than being directly engaged,” she asserted. “Success to any of these efforts, however, is demonstrated and proven by the ability to develop and establish working and reliable relationships with community partners, as well as to implement tools and technologies to solve challenges and create high-synergy public engagement.”
Babb has been afforded a unique opportunity to help with the design and program development in support of Orange County’s new Center for Innovation and Design — a space that supports design-think strategies, technology prototyping and testing, upskilling and workforce development.
“We’ll bring and test new methods here using technologies that implement augmented, virtual, and immersive experiences and collaborative spaces to address community challenges such as health, education, infrastructure, public safety and economic development,” she affirmed.
In today’s environment, access to devices and high speed internet to perform basic services and access to education, jobs and healthcare is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to having a reasonable quality of life. “Implementing a highly efficient and successful digital program that eliminates the digital divide in the County represents an important priority for us,” she said.
Every day has afforded Babb opportunities to connect with business partners, stakeholders and the general community to create or modify programs and address multi-faceted challenges. With technology comes economic impact and opportunity, and working across these areas of focus allows her direct access to make positive and recognizable change. That, she admits, makes her role most fulfilling.
Her position also comes with great responsibility because emerging technologies must be vetted, and the potential for scale, security, platform and interoperability with existing systems must also be considered. Ample operational and industry research is critical, so Babb has to evaluate industry lessons-learned and use tools to help simulate environments before making final decisions.
“Driven by our Mayor’s leadership, we’re well-positioned with potential where anything is possible given priorities and funding,” she said. “That said, I’m open to exploring new things outside the realm of possibilities in order to employ emerging technologies to improve our region.”