In 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Katherine Oliver introduced the world's first Chief Digital Officer in government, and made a powerful commitment to New York City's innovative future. Nearly three years later, cities across the globe have followed suit, recognizing the need to evolve effectively as technology transforms the world.
To guide efforts, in May 2011 Mayor Bloomberg and Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot introduced the Digital Roadmap, the comprehensive plan to establish New York City as a leading digital city through initiatives in infrastructure, education, open government, engagement and industry support. As illustrated in this report, today that plan is 100% complete.
This achievement provides a powerful platform to launch the next generation of innovation initiatives in New York City. As the City of New York celebrates and thanks its partners for making it possible to realize the inaugural Digital Roadmap, it is critical to set new goals that raise the bar even higher.
To chart future objectives, NYC Digital has gathered input from a diverse range of New Yorkers to help shape the City's technology strategy. Through social media, public listening sessions and presentations that spanned all five boroughs, hundreds of New Yorkers have made their voices heard and provided valuable guidance on how the City can build on its current digital foundation. In each of the public listening sessions, hosted through the City's Meetup group, participants divided into discussion sections focused on access, education, open government, engagement and industry-and presented their ideas and recommendations at the conclusion of the event. The following recommendations are a reflection of this diverse and insightful input.
The Role of the Chief Digital Officer
In creating the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) role, Mayor Bloomberg established a position unique in its approach to all City functions through the lens of technology. Against the rapidly changing backdrop of the digital sector, the CDO takes a global view, bringing together insights that span more than 80 agencies and constructing a strategic plan for optimizing and implementing resources that serve the public and equip the City for an innovative future.
The Chief Digital Officer leads NYC Digital, a team that functions like a startup, providing strategic guidance to digital professionals across City government and implementing innovative initiatives and public-private partnerships. The need to invest in a digital future is critical to municipalities, and NYC Digital serves to ensure that the City of New York builds critical infrastructure to enable growth, modernizes government service delivery, engages constituents via new communications methods, prepares for the future of the economy and provides technology education opportunities to New Yorkers of all ages.
The role of the Chief Digital Officer and NYC Digital is part strategy and part execution. Its work is divided between internal coordination and external outreach, enabling the effective exchange of ideas and development of public-private partnerships.
In line with Mayor Bloomberg's data-driven approach to government, research and analytics are at the core of NYC Digital's strategy development process. In addition to the annual publication of the Digital Roadmap, the office continuously monitors web traffic metrics, social media analytics, mobile application engagement and newsletter subscriptions to track trends and identify high-demand platforms and content. The team also evaluates the progress of the City's digital programs and fields public suggestions and input on strategy.
Internally, NYC Digital serves as a catalyst for innovation, supporting the work of digital pioneers across government and helping novices become comfortable on new terrain. As digital consultants, the team often advises on new projects and helps the technology community navigate government to better serve New Yorkers.
With over 200 digital media professionals in City government, more than one hundred City programs in the five areas of the roadmap and a continuous influx of partnership opportunities, coordination is critical. This is achieved through tools such as the Citywide social media monitoring platform, organizational developments like the SMART group and resources such as social media style guides. NYC Digital also provides a range of professional development opportunities in collaboration with digital platform partners, such as the Engage NYC Social Media Summit, workshops on how to master specific platforms and individualized consulting sessions.
Every year, NYC Digital combines insights from research, public input, technology experts and government employees to update the Digital Roadmap to best meet the evolving needs of the City.
In addition to setting strategy and supporting coordination across agencies, NYC Digital actively implements public-facing Digital Roadmap initiatives that cut across multiple stakeholder groups to better serve New Yorkers.
To enable these projects and others, NYC Digital has coordinated more than twenty public-private partnerships, including collaborations with Bitly, Buddy Media, Facebook, Foursquare, General Assembly, Google, Internet Week, Mashable and Tumblr.
EVOLVING NYC DIGITAL
As NYC Digital evolves and builds on the lessons of the past three years, a number of opportunities will help to expand the reach and effectiveness of the team.
To help execute new digital initiatives more rapidly, the City can create CodeLab, a small web and mobile development team that is able to quickly prototype and launch new projects, introduce pioneering technology enhancements to the City's platforms and offer support to agency technology initiatives. CodeLab would be unique in adopting an agile, iterative methodology for development, and approach projects with a startup mentality that embrace cutting edge innovations.
Finally, to continue to share best practices and learn from leading practitioners, NYC Digital will expand and grow the Digital Cities Council, maintaining the online Digital Cities Library of case studies and helping to convene annual gatherings and ongoing dialogue with innovative cities around the world.
Beyond these updates, the programmatic recommendations that follow will help to further support New York City's digital growth.
Next Steps for Access
Leverage City Infrastructure for Wi-Fi
When the City's Reinvent Payphones initiative challenged designers to imagine new telecommunications uses of pay telephones, public Wi-Fi was a leading suggestion in submissions. With payphones as a starting point, the City can explore other opportunities to leverage existing City-owned infrastructure to connect the New Yorkers through the installation of Wi-Fi technology. Options can range from buildings to street furniture, and could generate revenue for the City budget via licensing to providers. In other scenarios, the infrastructure can be available at no cost to providers in exchange for free public access and other services. Providers can offer free access to the public as corporate social responsibility measure, or subsidize costs through an ad-supported model. The initiative can begin as a small-scale pilot, with a public database of infrastructure available online.
Seamless Wi-Fi Usage Across Hotspots
As the number of Wi-Fi hotspots increase across New York City, ensuring seamless connectivity across these touchpoints will improve the overall quality of Internet access. Public input indicates demand for a single sign-on, consistent network experience across all municipally provided Wi-Fi hotspots. For example, as a user transitions from network to network, or provider to provider, the user would not be required to enter another set of credentials, select a specific network in device settings or encounter an unfamiliar splash page. To achieve this, the City could issue a set of technical guidelines and require all vendors to provide a consistent, NYC-branded entry page for Wi-Fi access. Technical guidelines would reflect security research and steps to protect the privacy of users.
Broadband, Wi-Fi and Digital Learning in Public Housing Facilities
To expand the availability of free Internet access to low-income individuals as described in the Access section, the City can work with foundations and corporate partners to provide free Wi-Fi, hardline broadband and computer access in the outdoor and indoor common spaces of public housing facilities. A network of trained community members and volunteers can teach free, public courses in digital literacy, job search tools and more advanced computer science and web development skills. Technology manufacturers can also provide donations of equipment and high-speed broadband access to households with students enrolled in public school or continuing education programs, using the template of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Community programs such as Red Hook Initiative Wi-Fi offer compelling models for deploying infrastructure and employing local youth in training initiatives and administration.
Fiber Optic Commercial Broadband
In order to support the growth of New York City's economy, the City can continue to support programs that expand fiber optic commercial broadband, such as WiredNYC, ConnectNYC and the Broadband Connect map, described in the Industry section of the Roadmap. The City can also explore the potential to support the utility of high-speed Internet connectivity via 311 and enable customer reports on commercial broadband installation and service concerns related to landlords and Internet Service Providers.
In addition, the City can continue to use negotiation leverage with ISPs or external grants to provide a funding pool for fiber optic installation to small and medium businesses located in underserved areas.
Connectivity in Emergency Situations
Mobile Resource Deployment
Learning from the experience of Hurricane Sandy, the City and local telecommunications providers can work together to rapidly deploy mobile charging stations and cellular service towers in emergency situations along with vital resources. Some examples of the charging stations, such as the solar-powered Street Charge described the Access section, have already been piloted across the New York City. This infrastructure can travel to where it is most needed before auxiliary power sources to stationary cellular towers are depleted, typically 24 hours after a power outage.
Accurate, location-specific information on power and connectivity infrastructure is critical in emergency situations. To monitor and optimize the allocation of resources, telecommunications infrastructure can include battery operated transmitters that signal to a central City database when systems are dangerously low or fully without power, providing device-by-device accuracy for situational monitoring.
Guidelines for Auxiliary Power
During Hurricane Sandy, even organizations that had planned for power outages encountered challenges with these systems. To minimize power interruptions for critical infrastructure as well as high-dependency commercial systems such as data centers, the City of New York can issue building guidelines that recommend that generators, fuel pumps and other technology be located on the second story or higher, reducing the potential for flood damage.
Next Steps for Education
Digital Toolkit for Schools
To ensure that New York City's youth are prepared for the future economy, the City can encourage technology literacy and lifelong learning by developing a Digital Toolkit for Schools that educators, administrators and parents can use to support their children's academic career. Using the template of the Digital Toolkit for Small Businesses described in the Industry section, the City can design a Digital Toolkit that makes it accessible for any school to integrate digital learning tools into its curriculum, leverage online assessment platforms to track progress and match mainstream digital platforms with subject matter to bring coursework to life. The toolkit can explain to parents the technology their children are using, how to follow their progress online and ways to support learning and coursework at home.
Computer Science Curriculum Expansion
Today, with the models of the Academy for Software Engineering and Bronx Academy for Software Engineering to build upon, the City of New York has an invaluable opportunity to expand its computer science curriculum to all public high schools.Afterschool programs can provide additional learning experiences in newer emerging technologies and more advanced coursework. In addition, the City's Department of Education can further inspire and prepare younger students in grades K-8 for academic careers in technology through beginner coding programs, game development and in-person talks from local technology leaders.
Training Teachers: Professional Development and Engaging Practitioners
In order to expand computer science curriculum, it is critical to train the teachers who will support technology learning. With this aim in mind, the City of New York can explore professional development opportunities and public-private partnerships that enable teachers to embrace new technologies and learn from industry practitioners who are experts in subject matter. One model to leverage is Citizen Schools, a program that extends the school day with science and mathematics project-based courses taught by industry practitioners alongside seasoned practitioners.
Increase Digital Links Between Classroom and Community
To engage students in digital coursework and deepen ties with the community, New York City public schools can provide opportunities in project-based coursework that benefits local organizations and learns from successful businesses. For example, students learning about web development or social media marketing could provide plans and support to a community nonprofit or traditional small business that lacks digital expertise, tying into the City's Digital Toolkit for Small Businesses. The impact of this work can be to increase local engagement in the learning process, help children see the impact and potential of their work and ensure that digital growth permeates the community. In addition, a speaker series featuring local, diverse technology leaders with whom students identify can encourage more youth to imagine a personal future in the field, inspiring them to pursue studies in computer science.
Affordable Continuing Education Opportunities in Technology
As more adults look to enter the technology industry, the support of continuing education programs is vital to providing more employment opportunities. Today, many programs exist, detailed in the Education section of this report. Building on those resources, and evaluating private sector continuing education leaders, the City of New York can explore options to subsidize commercial programs and promote low-cost programs available at City University of New York campuses, such as Introduction to Android Development and Introduction to Programming with Java. In addition, City agencies can provide professional development and mentorship opportunities through programming such as industry panel sessions and personalized guidance from technology sector volunteers.
Next Steps for Open Government
Expanding the Reach of 311 through Its API
As a technology platform, 311 offers enormous potential to more efficiently gather, vet, analyze, exchange and ultimately act on data related to the City's services and infrastructure. Today the City's 311 Content Application Programming Interface, or API, enables external developers to build tools that let the public get rapid answers to service questions. And as more than 66% of 311 requests are resolved solely through the exchange of information, today the Content API can already support the majority of 311 inquiries.
The natural evolution of the 311 Content API is to add "Write" functionality, meaning that developers can create applications that send data directly to the City channels for processing Service Requests. Coupled with outreach to strategic digital platforms and media partners, the City can dramatically expand its reach, allowing, for example, users to request to plant a new tree through a social media platform or fix a pothole through a blog.
Expanding the Number of City APIs
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are in high demand because they enable the development of more timely, accurate and useful applications than those built using static data sets. Including the 311 API, the City of New York today provides access to six robust APIs. With more than 2,000 data sets available on the NYC OpenData Platform, the City of New York has an opportunity to provide access to even more municipal data via API, equipping developers to build powerful applications that help to serve the public.
Examples of future APIs can include:
To further enhance service delivery and increase efficiency, the City can explore implementing sensors that automatically transmit status changes and enable the public to uniquely identify physical infrastructure. This would be helpful in reducing duplicate service requests to 311 about the same infrastructure, such as a park bench or streetlight, decreasing the number of staff visits to resolve an open 311 ticket.
Crowdsourcing for Disaster Response
In a City with 8.4 million residents and 52 million annual visitors, there is an enormous opportunity to gain valuable insights by empowering New Yorkers to report at scale on emergencies, natural disasters and other urgent scenarios. 311 is a crowdsourcing success story for the City of New York, enabling millions of New Yorkers to share their input and improve City functions. While 311 fields incoming inquiries, crowdsourcing functionality can allow the City to direct outgoing context-specific questions for voluntary response to members of the public. With deeper integration into City service platforms, there is an opportunity to operationalize the resulting situational awareness insights and help to inform disaster response and recovery efforts. While carefully respecting considerations such as data integrity, user privacy, normalization of data and compatibility with City data formats, crowdsourcing can provide vital and life-saving information to first responders and recovery teams.
Next Steps for Engagement
The Personalized City Dashboard
Reinforcing the City's user-centric engagement approach and the NYC.gov design strategy articulated in 2011, the City can further improve customer service by launching personalized online dashboards that make it easier to interact with local government.
Employing a single ID to access all City services, users can log in to NYC.gov and access customized information, alerts and public events for the neighborhoods in which they work and live. In addition, the dashboard can present history and status updates for user interactions across City agencies, such as 311 service requests, parking ticket payments or permit applications.
In addition, with security measures in place to protect sensitive information, users can store personal information and payment details, enabling them to seamlessly create new 311 service requests or complete payments. If users feel comfortable sharing more personal information about family and employment status, the City can also proactively suggest programs and initiatives that provide cost savings or other benefits.
Users can also select different modes of receiving relevant alerts and updates, such as daily email with Alternate Side Parking status and free local events, or a text message notifying that the user's daily commute may be interrupted by a specific subway delay.
The personalized dashboard has the potential to completely transform the user experience of engaging with New York City government by making that interaction as seamless, rewarding and efficient as possible. In order to achieve this, 311 can explore implementing an internal Customer Relationship Management platform, bringing together all agency services and transactions with the user as their focal point.
Contextual PSA Search Results
To further enhance the effectiveness of NYC.gov and connect residents with relevant programs, the City can implement a Public Service Announcement (PSA) network on NYC.gov. The PSA network can function similarly to an online ad network, displaying public programs based on keywords used by website visitors. For example, if a user searches for "events for children" on NYC.gov, the PSA network can display ads that are useful to parents, such as free summer lunch programs or child vaccination resources.
Digital Community Ambassadors
Inspired by input from the Digital Roadmap listening sessions described in the Engagement section, the City can explore the creation of a Digital Community Ambassador program. Digital Community Ambassadors can act as liaisons between neighborhoods and the City digital team, providing local input into Digital Roadmap initiatives such as education and technology industry support and informing local constituencies of programs that may benefit them. Digital Community Ambassadors can help to ensure that outreach strategies are crafted to effectively catalyze digital development at the neighborhood level and strategically engage community organizations to encourage local participation and impact.
Building on the success of foreign language digital engagement tools such as @nycgob, the City's Twitter channel for news in Spanish, there is an opportunity to further expand to New York City's most widely spoken non-English languages. With 25% of New Yorkers unable to speak fluent English, foreign language digital engagement can help to inform more members of the public, share critical alerts in emergency situations and respond to questions from the immigrant community.
Mobile-First Engagement Approach
As the percentage of New Yorkers using phones and tablets to access City content continues to climb, a mobile-first approach will help to ensure that resources and information are accessible to those who seek it. The City can apply the lessons of success stories such as TXT-2-Work, the mobile phone texting initiative that alerts job seekers instantly of relevant employment opportunities. With the revamped NYC.gov as a guide for mobile web experiences, City agencies can prioritize mobile access to digital content, providing greater convenience and accessibility to New Yorkers.
Digital Emergency Alerts
Digital media platforms represent an invaluable opportunity to alert and inform New Yorkers in emergency scenarios. Existing federal initiatives leverage radio, television and mobile networks to inform New Yorkers, but none yet utilize major digital media platforms such as online content, advertising networks and social media. Using the Common Alerting Protocol, an XML-format for exchanging emergency information between alerting technologies, there is an opportunity to engage major digital content platforms to engage New Yorkers based on location, transmitting life-saving updates.
To fully realize the value of digital media, the City of New York can build on its digital engagement strategy by operationalizing insights gleaned from the public. Through a Citywide social media analytics platform, the City can analyze public requests, gauge feedback and potentially identify health and security concerns before traditional reporting structures. Social media analysis has especially high potential for aiding disaster response and recovery initiatives in emergency scenarios, by combining timestamp and location data with content submitted by users including text, video and photos.
Next Steps for Industry
We Are Made in NY Expansion to College Campuses
The We Are Made in NY economic development initiative described in the Industry section strives to help anyone learn, launch or find a job in the technology sector. With this function in mind, expanding awareness of the sector's growth and opportunities to college students will help to establish New York City as a magnet for professional talent and emerging entrepreneurs.
A campus expansion program can feature the distribution of We Are Made in NY digital and printed materials to college groups dedicated to topics such as entrepreneurship, technology, maker culture and engineering, encouraging members to learn about the sector and ask questions about life in New York City. The development of a New York City "starter kit" for those unfamiliar with the City can help to convey the vibrancy of the technology sector and the culture of the City's diverse neighborhoods, and help to make a transition easier and more accessible.
In addition, on-campus and virtual talks from prominent local entrepreneurs can help inspire young students and graduates to explore a career in New York City's technology sector and help startups attract talent to help their companies grow. Presentations can range from Twitter chats and Skype or Google+ video streams to in-person presentations to clubs and career fairs.
As described in the Industry section, in 2013 the City first began its expansion of the We Are Made in NY marketing campaign to college campuses. Further visibility, customized by school and program, can connect students to resources such as the We Are Made in NY jobs map as they search for employment and internships.
Schools in the We Are Made in NY campus expansion program can include local New York City campuses as well national and international higher learning institutions.
Encouraging Diversity Through Internships and Custom Campaigns
Building on the expansion of youth employment programs to include more technology internships and summer jobs, the City can work with local companies to increase the number of women and minorities in the sector. In the summer of 2013, the City provided 300 paid summer roles in the technology sector. Through wider outreach to technology firms and funders, the City of New York can significantly expand this pool of positions to encourage more young people to enter the field, gain valuable experience in the technology sector and build a network of professional contacts and mentors.
As introduced in Next Steps: Engagement, the City of New York can also work collaboratively with Digital Community Ambassadors to craft awareness campaigns to attract more diverse students and professionals to the technology sector. By featuring local entrepreneurs and technologies that benefit neighborhood businesses, the campaign can present New York City's technology sector in a more personalized, effective context. As part of a speaker series featured at neighborhood events, recreation centers, Workforce1 career centers, libraries and schools, local technology leaders can inspire and engage individuals from underrepresented neighborhoods to become more involved in the technology sector.
Marketing Local Business through .NYC Top-Level Domain
As the City's application for the .nyc top-level domain (TLD) moves forward, the initiative provides an opportunity to market local businesses that adopt the TLD as part of their web address. The .nyc domain is reserved for residents, businesses and organizations that are located in New York City, enabling resources such as a search engine for local businesses that indexes only .nyc web addresses. For individuals committed to investing in goods and services located in the five boroughs, .nyc offers an unprecedented level of local authenticity in the digital realm.
The City can also integrate the .nyc top-level domain initiative into its Digital Toolkit for Small Businesses, informing entrepreneurs on how and why to apply for the address when it is released publicly.
Fiber Optic Commercial Broadband Expansion
As outlined in the Next Steps: Access section, the City can continue to support the infrastructure needs of the technology sector by supporting landlord and ISP complaints on commercial broadband installation and service from businesses. In addition the City can continue to leverage negotiating power to ensure establish funding for connecting underserved commercial districts. Finally, continuing to support ConnectNYC, WiredNYC and the Broadband Connect Map will provide new tools to businesses and incentivize real estate leaders to make more infrastructure investments.
Flexible Space Options for Growing Businesses
Another major infrastructure need of the technology sector is the expansion of flexible real estate options for growing companies. Today the City's incubators and coworking spaces serve early-stage startups well, and more advanced companies with around 50 employees or more often have the resources to execute a commercial real estate lease. It is the organizations between those extremes--the companies of around 15-50 employees--that have challenges as they quickly evolve. Technology companies in the midst of rapid growth often must add engineering and business function staff to sustain momentum. As companies grow, they may find that commercial real estate offerings do not meet their needs: coworking space is too small, and commercial space available on the market is unnecessarily large and beyond their budget.
The City of New York can support this transition in a number of ways. First, it can bring together real estate owners and entrepreneurs through roundtable discussions to cultivate greater mutual understanding of the needs of the market, potentially encouraging the development of additional real estate product options for growing startups.
In addition, the City can facilitate connections among technology companies to help allocate unused space to needy growing startups through landlord-approved sublets and other mechanisms, helping companies to get the best value for their investments. Through the New York City Economic Development Corporation the City can also explore its own real estate inventory for options that it can provide to growing companies looking for flexible space as they grow.
Exploring the Sharing Economy
As the sharing economy grows, companies that encourage collaborative consumption of resources such as cars, homes, retail products or services often encounter regulatory constraints as they pioneer new business categories. Similarly, City government and other bodies have an obligation to uphold laws and protect the safety and health of New Yorkers. To help make New York City a welcoming environment for innovative startups but ensure the legality of the economy and well-being of New Yorkers, the City of New York can convene an advisory council of sharing economy representatives and City officials to help explore and shape a constructive path for industry growth.
The Emergency Alert System includes radio (FM, AM and digital) and television (satellite, cable and digital), and is managed by Federal Communications Commission. The Wireless Emergency Alert program sends location-targeted messages via mobile carrier and is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.