New York City is now one year in with their Road Map for the Digital City, the city’s plan to make New York the world’s leading digital city. Are they on to something big? Were their first year ambitions realistic? The process is definitely underway, but more challenges exist.
In 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and first chief digital officer for the city, Rachel Sterne, drew up the roadmap for NYC. Its aim is to use technology to increase avenues for government transparency and data accessibility for residents and businesses, and make civic and economic gains by leveraging the city's tech sector.
The roadmap is made up of four core pillars: Access to Technology, Open Government, Engagement, and Industry. The roadmap is now commanded by NYC Digital created last July with commissioner Katherine Oliver and so far, the results have been pretty impressive.
To start, New Yorkers can now stay connected to free wifi at 26 locations in 20 parks across the five boroughs. The five-year initiative was launched in partnership with AT&T with no cost to taxpayers. The city also championed for more broadband choices. Furthermore, for the first time in history, six different subway stations began to offer cellphone service.
Recognizing the importance of emergency response, when Hurricane Irene hit the east coast, the city was able to respond in real time with emergency alerts on Facebook, 311 tweets and live video streaming. The government observed that more than 400,000 social media based impressions occurred during Hurricane Irene. Therefore, in February, the mayor unveiled the New York government-sponsored Facebook Page created by New York-based Buddy Media. Facebook.com/nycgov lets citizens interact directly with the government as well as gain city-based news and critical information, learn about new city initiatives, explore interactive features, and check out a citywide events calendar.
For the Open Government section of the roadmap, initiatives for the Open Government platform were fully completed last year. NYC Digital developed an OpenData API platform, which supplies public datasets produced by agencies and organizations. “Reinvent NYC.gov,” the city’s first hackathon, was attended by developers and designers from across the country. Independent hackathons are now held nearly every week, led by experts at the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. In addition, nine official NYC apps were created including NYC 311, NYC City Hall, and NYC Media. NYCrecycles is an app that uses gamification, demonstrating NYC’s recycling process through an interactive game.
Lastly, three of NYC’s eight city-sponsored business incubators across the five boroughs are officially equipped to support startups and entrepreneurs in the tech industry. The DUMBO incubator, 160 Varick Street, and General Assembly offer workspaces that promote innovation in the city’s tech sector.
After all this, is the plan meeting its mark? The roadmap is on schedule to meet all of its goals by mid 2013, according to Sterne. NYC Digital is continuing to introduce new goals as existing goals are met. The next steps will be providing education and outreach. Crucial on the goal list will be to provide high-needs individuals with federally funded broadband.
As the roadmap progresses, NYC’s open data bill still has many challenges to face. For instance, how does the government get 80 city agencies to put their data into a portal? A manual to address this is now in the works, according to the city council. Moreover, New York’s 200 (!) social media channels are a good way to connect with citizens, but this means they also need to put the necessary energy into listening.
You can find out more on the state of the roadmap by watching a video of the Wagner Policy Alliance at NYU symposium held in March where panelists from several sectors discussed "State of the Digital City: Government 2.0 and its Impact on Policymaking."
[Post inspired by Mashable]