311 Digital Access and Efficiency
CURRENTLY, 311 ENABLES CITIZENS TO report report issues via phone, 311 Online, and 311 smartphone application. In addition, 311 offers growing support for information via Twitter, Skype, and text message at shortcode 311-692. The 311 team, social media managers, and NYC Digital are working to establish protocols for processing service requests presented outside of official 311 channels, such as on a Facebook page or blog comment.
311 Online recently introduced an updated home page with dynamic feeds that present the real-time status of alternate side parking rules, public schools, and garbage removal-three of the most frequent information requests to 311 and NYC.gov. This feed is available in rss format, enabling developers and technology platforms to integrate this real-time information into their products and services. In addition to tools for reporting and the dynamic rss feed, the new 311 Online homepage features recently announced City programs and public service campaigns. 311 Online has garnered numerous awards, including honors from the Center for Digital Government.
In February 2011, 311 unveiled its 311 Service Request Map, an unparalleled tool for government transparency that visually presents geotagged 311 service requests in 15 categories including Noise and Snow on the NYCityMap. Colin Reilly, the head of the City's Geospatial Information Systems (gis) team at DOITT, describes the impressive application on the NYCityMap Blog:
The service requests are geocoded on intake at 311 and are presented on a map for presentation and search capabilities and ostensibly ease of use. The data is updated every twenty-four hours. One year's worth of data represents over 4 million records (i.e., points on a map). Service requests at the same location (e.g., address, intersection) are aggregated and the size is graduated by the number of service requests at the location. Therefore, locations with greater service requests will have points of a larger size.
Citizens can visit the map and search for recent reports by location or community board, and find requests that were opened or closed in the past five days. By clicking on each visual data point, users access additional information about the number of requests, status, and date filed.
NYCITYMAP Robust Geographic Resources
311 at a Glance
THE GEOSPATIAL INFORMATION SERVICES (GIS) team within DOITT maintains a base map of New York City, which has its public facing presence here: http://gis.NYC.gov/DOITT/NYCitymap/. Internally, City agencies use an API to share and integrate location-based information with the map. For the public, NYCityMap3 provides a wealth of geographic information about nearly every address in New York City, including resources on local Community Boards, elected officials, and building and property records. It allows users to reveal over 150 additional geographical elements, from green markets to Wi-Fi hotspots. This information-rich map is also an incredible historic resource, and offers the ability to toggle to an aerial photographic map setting, with views from 1924, 1951, 1996, 2006, and 2008.
NYCityMap also offers five additional themes that augment the basic map with additional information layers:
1. 311 Service Requests
Presents 15 types of 311 service requests, such as sanitation or noise, opened or closed in the past five days.
2. Green Infrastructure
Overlays 10 types of green infrastructure, including green roofs, pervious pavement, and rainwater reuse systems.
3. SCOUT (Street Conditions Observations Unit)
Reveals the number of days since the last investigation by the SCOUT team in every Community Board district. SCOUT surveys streets and reports visually-identifiable quality of life conditions.
4. SPEED (Searchable Property Environmental E-Database Portal)
Using the Vacant Property Database, this map presents environmental data on certain sites in government environmental remediation programs, as well as historical information including prior uses of unimproved vacant properties.
The Department of Transportation's map displays 19 different map features, including bicycle paths, truck routes, and ferry terminals.
Mobile Information on the Go
THE CITY OF NEW YORK actively leverages mobile technology to engage the public. Mobile initiatives include the construction permit integration of web-linked QR codes by the Department of Buildings, and SMS tools, such as 311 service requests via 311-692 and alerts through the NYC Notify system operated by the Office of Emergency Management.
DOITT, NYC Media and partners have also developed six official New York City smartphone applications that help residents and businesses by providing them with real-time information and services. Several agencies have begun to introduce mobile versions of their websites to enable greater access. Finally, through the NYC Competition that provides City data to developers, the City has enabled the creation of over 100 independent applications.
311 iPhone Application
In June 2009, New York became the first city in the world to launch a 311 iPhone Application. The app, developed in-house by DOITT, enables New Yorkers to submit service requests using Apple iPhones, with the option to add location tagging via GPS and photos to requests. The app currently supports a select number of service request types including:
- Cable television & public pay phones
- Consumer complaints, such as damaged/defective goods, false advertising, & prices/rates not posted
- Restaurant complaints
- Street or sidewalk conditions, such as potholes, street signs, street lights, parking meter problems, and damaged bus stop shelters
- Public park conditions, such as animals, maintenance or facility issues, and rules violations
- Tree damage
- Dirty vacant lots
- Taxi complaints, including lost property
NYC Condom Finder App
NYC Media App
You The Man App
MADE IN NY iPhone APPLICATION
The Made in New York app2 from the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment supports the film and broadcasting industry by presenting approximately 1,000 geographically tagged vendor discounts for projects based in New York City.
NYC CITY HALL iPhone AND Android APPLICATIONS
The Mayor's Office City Hall application3 provides a real-time news feed of the latest press releases, announcements, and photos from Mayor Bloomberg. Users can also link directly to the 311 iPhone App or make calls to 311 regarding service requests.
NYC CONDOM FINDER iPhone APPLICATION
Launched by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the NYC Condom Finder4 encourages safe sex by enabling any New Yorker to find free NYC condoms in one of over 3,000 nearby locations, based on GPS location. It also provides information about the NYC Condom program and guidelines for usage. The NYC Condom Finder currently has a 5-star rating in the Apple iTunes Store.
NYC MEDIA iPhone APPLICATION
Launched by the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, this application5 features hundreds of hours of NYC Media programming, schedules for upcoming shows, and a GPS-enabled map that reveals videos about the places near you, from restaurants to parks.
YOU THE MAN iPhone APPLICATION
Developed by the Department of Transportation, the You The Man app6 features quizzes on sobriety, Twitter integration to praise designated drivers, and a geo-based search tool for finding nearby taxi and limousine services.
Datamine, NYC Big Apps and NYCSTAT Innovation Built on Public Information
THE CITY OF NEW YORK DataMine is a repository of over 350 machine-readable public data sets, maintained by DOITT, and provided to technologists interested in developing applications that use public information. NYCStat is a separate resource that provides a wide range of public information in a non-technical, data visualization format that anyone can access and use.
The NYC Big Apps contest, hosted by the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), DOITT and founding partner ChallengePost, is a pioneering competition to promote and incentivize the creation of innovative mobile applications built using the public data found on the DataMine. It is one of the first of its kind in the government arena, and has been replicated by other municipalities who recognize its effectiveness in developing new technology at marginal cost. http://NYCbigapps.com
In 2011 the contest featured over 350 data sets from across the City, and awarded $50,000 in prizes from private partners. Last year's winner, MyCityWay, recently closed a $5 million second round. The competition is renowned and shows the Return on Investment for organizations that open their data to the public in a machine readable format. This year's winners included social transport app Roadify and location-based restaurant grade mashup DontEat.At.
2011 NYC BIG APPS 2.0 WINNERS
Roadify is a social transportation app that aggregates input supplied by the DOT, MTA and commuters on traffic, vacant parking spots, and public transit delays - leveraging the eyes and ears of the crowd to provide real-time updates. Roadify has enormous potential to reduce congestion by suggesting alternate routes before it's too late, make commuters more efficient with more information, and improve the quality of life of New Yorkers.
Donteat.At adds value to another New York-based platform: Foursquare. People use Foursqure to share their location with others by "checkin in" to the application. When they use Donteat.at, users receive instant SMS warnings when they check into a New York City restaurant that is in danger of being closed because of health violations.
Cultural Data Project
The Department of Cultural Affairs is a participant in the Cultural Data Project of Pew Charitable Trusts. The Cultural Data Project provides a free, web-based management platform that allows cultural organizations to track and share their programmatic and financial performance, supporting greater efficiency for funders and institutions.
Social Media Participation and Engagement
CITY AGENCIES MANAGE OVER 200 social media channels that reach an audience of more than 1.2 million. Channels include Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, Tumblr, Vimeo, and YouTube, which has garnered over 1.3 million views alone. Digital communications managers recognize social media as a way to form a deeper relationship with their constituents, gain valuable feedback, and share information about services. Many of the most effective social media initiatives provide a space for community-led discussion, with the City playing an informative, supporting role in the background.
Using social media in the public sector comes with unique challenges; privacy and sensitivity concerns mean that public forums are not always ideal. As in the private sector, the City's most successful social media strategies are goal-based, aligning with agency objectives from the start, and employing social media channels appropriate to their audience and desired outcomes.
CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA:
- Provides clear value to the user. Answers the question: Why would a citizen want to use this? What do they gain?
- Citizen-centric, not agency-centric. Communicates on the terms of the individual.
- Agency social media managers actively contribute, supporting a dynamic community.
- Aligns with agency goals, improving the City's ability to serve New Yorkers and ensuring adequate resource commitment.
The following successful social media examples demonstrate these features and prove the value of strategic public service social media.
SOCIAL MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
1. Notify NYC via SMS and Twitter
The Office of Emergency Management uses the simple, ubiquitous formats of SMS and email to transmit short messages when urgent situations arise that might impact New Yorkers. Messages are also rebroadcast across Twitter.
2. @311 NYC ON TWITTER
311 has a tremendous reputation for helping citizens by creating a streamlined customer service experience on top of complicated internal City interactions. 311's digital team has begun to address complaints and service requests via Twitter. While they do not yet have the capability to issue tracking numbers, 311 directs users to the specific agencies and online resources that can help resolve citizen issues.
Unlike a private, person-to-person 311 transaction via telephone, a public transaction conducted over Twitter has the potential to educate citizens, establishing a record that enters the collective digital consciousness and can be discovered through search.
3. @NYCMayorsOffice on Twitter
Twitter's ability to establish a direct line to elected officials is one of its most empowering features. Mayor Bloomberg's office has embraced this opportunity to connect with its @NYCmayorsoffice Twitter feed, and a variety of compelling Twitter-based contests and calls-to-action.
With the creation of the #askmike hashtag, the Mayor's Office solicits public questions for the Mayor via Twitter, which he addresses on his Friday radio show. And in April's #poetweet contest, @NYCmayorsoffice called for poems in 140 characters or less, and selected five winners for publication in Metro newspaper.
In a city as vast as New York, creating personal connections and reducing barriers to engagement - via initiatives like these - help to foster communication and community.
4. NYC Quits Smoking on Facebook
An excellent example of public health information, the NYC Quits Smoking Facebook page, launched by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, shows the value of creating a forum for community discussion focused on issues, rather than agencies. The page has become a support group for individuals trying to quit, and features apps that allow users to apply for free nicotine patches and other cessation aids.
5. NYC Schools on Facebook
The Department of Education has strategically branded their Facebook page as NYC Schools, and now hosts one of the City's largest and most vibrant communities online with over 14,000 fans and engaging contests, news, and discussions with parents and educators.
6. QR Codes on Construction Permits
Earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg and Buildings Commissioner LiMandri announced the introduction of QR codes, a type of mobile tag, on all future DOB permits. An exercise in transparency and augmented reality, the permits enable individuals to scan a QR code with their phones and instantly access more information about the site manager or approving party.
7. The Daily Pothole on Tumblr
A Department of Transportation channel, The Daily Pothole Tumblr blog has transformed an inevitable consequence of inclement weather - the pothole - into an object of civic activity, by recognizing the thousands of hard working City employees repairing potholes every day, and supporting transparency through mapping.