News from President Toni Preckwinkle

Watch the Premiere of “Changing the Code: Technology & Data in Cook County” September 27th at 11:00 am

Watch "Changing the Code: Technology & Data in Cook County"

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Bureau of Technology are proud to introduce “Changing the Code”, a monthly live-stream talk show that features Cook County technology companies, startups, research organizations, events  and the people behind them. It is produced by the Cook County Bureau of Technology and INXPO.

“Changing the Code” is different from other web streaming shows because it places emphasis on audience participation. The show begins with our host, Cook County’s Chief Information Officer Lydia Murray, and one guest. As the episode progresses new guests join them. Throughout the show, the audience can send questions directly to the panel of guests, or engage with other viewers via the streaming platform’s chat function. By the end of the episode, a larger discussion will have naturally evolved, including all involved, host, guests and audience.

Here’s the lineup for the September 27th premiere episode of “Changing the Code: Technology and Data in Cook County”.  Click here to register and watch.

Topic:  Why is Cook County a leader in technology?

Cook County is home to a surprising amount of technology companies, ranging from small start-ups and entrepreneurs to international corporations. John Hall, writing in the August 8, 2013 edition of, said “[Chicago’s] incredible ecosystem for entrepreneurs proved that it should set the standard for any town wanting to create an entrepreneurial draw.”  Next to Silicon Valley, Cook County is a prominent location when it comes to technology.

In this episode, we’re discussing why Cook County is a technological leader.  What are the ingredients that contribute to our success?  What needs to be done to improve the climate for technology business?

Our Guests:

Ernest Sanders, Gigabit SquaredErnest Sanders, Gigbit Squared:

Ernest Sanders is the General Manager for Gigabit Squared Chicago. Gigabit Squared Chicago is part of the nationally renowned Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program (GNGP) designed to create jobs, improve neighborhood safety, enhance education and improve health care services by bringing gigabit speed Internet service to Chicago’s Mid-south side. As of late summer, it has offered gigabit speed fiber and wireless to community anchor institutions summer in several Mid-south neighborhood.  Other neighborhoods will be connected over the next 18 months.

Sanders previously served as an Illinois Regional eTeam Leader for The Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He also served as the new communities program manager and director of communications for the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation and co-directed the Smart Communities Initiatives for Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, and Englewood. For more than 30 years, Sanders worked on national causes to reduce recidivism, enhance middle school education and social services, and promote digital excellence in lower income populations. Click here for more on Ernest Sanders.


Neil Khare, Cleversafe

 Neil Khare, Cleversafe

Neil Khare is a Special Projects Manager for Cleversafe, a Chicago-based growth firm focused on solving big data storage needs at the petabyte (1 million gigabytes) level and beyond.

Prior to serving at Cleversafe, Khare was Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Policy for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. He directed the development and implementation of several of the President’s key initiatives, including the County’s STAR (Set Targets, Achieve Results) performance management program.

Khare also worked as a Marketing Strategist for The John Buck Company, a Chicago-based commercial real estate firm. He was responsible for leading the firm’s efforts to explore and expand opportunities in institutional, public sector and infrastructure-related projects.

Before joining The John Buck Company, Khare worked at Chicago 2016, the city’s Olympic bid organization, as the Director of Special Projects in the area of community and government relations. He has also worked for the Chicago Cubs in the community affairs department. Neil holds bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.


Herman Brewer, Cook County Bureau of Economic DevelopmentHerman Brewer, Bureau Chief, Bureau of Economic Development

Herman joined the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development initially as the Director of Capital Planning & Community Development departments in the Spring of 2011. In December of 2011, Brewer was named Bureau Chief for Economic Development; taking charge of all departments within the newly formed area of County government. The departments include Planning & Development, Capital Planning, Real Estate, Building & Zoning and Zoning Board of Appeals.

Before arriving at Cook County, Brewer served as Executive Vice President of the Chicago Urban League, managing the daily operations and its Entrepreneurship Center, as well as Workforce Development, Housing, Education, marketing and communications. In September of 2009 Brewer was asked to serve as Acting President and CEO during the organization’s leadership transition process. Click here for his full biography


Randy Horton, FoottraffickerRandy Horton, Foottrafficker

Randy Horton is the co-founder of two startups: 94 Westbound Consulting, a digital product management consultancy (where he is Managing Principal) and FootTrafficker, a product startup creating an interactive device that turns any retail window into an interactive platform.

Horton has over 15 years of experience innovatively applying information technology to a wide range of business and product challenges.  From enterprise system mergers at Fortune 500 banks to pharmaceutical contracting and education reform in the Persian Gulf, to healthcare information technology reform in the United States, and federal research data collection and biotechnology manufacturing, he consistently solves complex problems to ensure business success.


Emile Cambry, Jr.-Blue 1647Emile Cambry, Jr., BLUE 1647

Emile Cambry, Jr. founded the technology innovation center and fabrication lab, BLUE1647 and is president of the Chicago International Social Change Film Festival. Cambry received his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Chicago and his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Featured on CNN, Cambry also founded the award-winning 21st Century Youth Project, teaching middle and high school students to create mobile and web apps, and 3D printing. Cambry is also a board member of DePaul University’s Social Enterprise Collective. He was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the City of Chicago’s Technology Diversity Council and is the Chair to Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s Technology Innovation Council.



Our Host:

Lydia Murray, Chief Information Officer, Cook County Government

Under the direction of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County CIO Lydia Murray has been in charge of financial reporting, revenue, email systems and the county’s website, and has spent much of her time since being appointed working on several large projects and collaborative efforts with the city of Chicago.

Murray joined the Civic Consulting Alliance in 2011 and brought expertise in local government service delivery and performance management of government operations.

Prior to joining Civic Consulting, she served two tours of duty as Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard Daley working on issues of technology, process improvement, and performance management. Her efforts in the Mayor’s Office led to the development of a comprehensive citywide performance management system which saw savings of more than $30 million dollars on top of adding the equivalent of over 100 employees to the City’s workforce over a 2 year implementation.

In between stints in the Mayor’s office, Murray also served for two years as Chief of Staff for President of the Chicago Transit Authority helping to oversee a $2 billion budget and operations which provided 1.7 million rides daily to residents and visitors to Chicago and its suburbs. Lydia’s other public service experience includes a stint as Director of Charlotte, North Carolina’s Welfare-to-Work program and working for more than four years in the working for Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York City in various positions including Director of the Mayor’s Action Center and Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Planning of Housing, Preservation and Development.

Lydia holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Political Science from The College of Wooster in Ohio and a master’s degree in Urban Policy from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

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