Press Release

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Digital vans – computer labs on wheels – bring technology directly to NYCHA communities that have limited or no access to internet services.

Residents of all ages digitally connect to educational and career opportunities, and much more

NEW YORK— Today, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) unveiled its third Digital Van, a computer lab on wheels that will tour public housing developments throughout the city to provide internet access and technology to NYCHA communities that have limited or no access to such services. This initiative will improve residents’ digital literacy and increase access to the 21st-century economy by connecting residents with the tools for doing homework, applying for jobs, and communicating on the internet. The van is funded through the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) as part of its efforts to expand digital access across the five boroughs.

“NYCHA is increasing residents’ access to technology,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “Digital vans are one way we’re bringing computers and the internet right to residents’ doors – and with that, greater opportunities to connect with New York’s 21st-century economy.”

"Today the technology baseline is access to high-speed Internet service,” said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Anne Roest. “DoITT is honored to continue our partnership with NYCHA to continue advancing free broadband deployment for a more connected, more equitable city for all by providing mobile access to broadband for NYCHA residents and their neighbors.”

NYCHA’s Digital Vans are equipped with eight laptops, a printer/scanner, wireless internet and an instructor, and visit public housing developments that lack computer labs and/or internet access. The first two vans were introduced in 2012 and visit 18 developments biweekly. With the addition of the third Digital Van, NYCHA will be able to reach up to 18 additional underserved developments.

Becoming a more efficient, customer-service focused agency through technology is an important part of the Authority’s ten-year strategic plan, NextGeneration NYCHA. The Authority has launched multiple initiatives to enhance customer service and improve quality of life for residents, including the Digital Vans, the MyNYCHA mobile app, and the NYCHA Self-Service Portal.

“Whenever government devotes more resources to closing the digital divide, it’s a good investment,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “NYCHA’s digital van program is an innovative way to extend access to underserved residents in the short run, while we continue to work on expanding permanent, affordable internet access throughout all of NYCHA.”

"Technology and wireless services have completely reimagined how society operates, and it is imperative for residents to have access to them,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the City Council Committee on Public Housing. “The digital vans are a great resource for NYCHA developments and residents who don't have reliable access to the Internet but want to stay connected.”

“I’m pleased that NYCHA is taking measures to deal with the digital divide that affects so many low-income New Yorkers,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the City Council Committee on Technology. “NYCHA’s Digital Vans provide desperately-needed internet access to communities without readily available service. It’s almost impossible to apply for a job or complete college applications without an internet-connected computer. By expanding their van fleet, NYCHA will bring internet to many more tenants in need.”

NYCHA’s Digital Initiatives, Praised by Industry Experts and Residents Alike:

Residents have responded very positively to the van and services it offers. Over 8,000 customers have been served—from seniors learning how to use a computer and opening email accounts, to children and teens doing research for their homework. One resident even earned a college degree using the Digital Van computers because she didn’t have access at home.

“I think the Digital Van is a great thing,” said Jessica Thomas, La Guardia Houses Resident Association President, “I hope and pray people take advantage of this opportunity because these computers are for their benefit.”

Last year, NYCHA was a semifinalist for the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Innovations in American Government Award for its Digital Van initiative. This year, NYCHA was recognized by the Middle Atlantic Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Development Officials (MARC-NAHRO) as a leader in Information Technology for digital initiatives, including the Digital Vans, the MyNYCHA mobile app, and the NYCHA Self-Service Portal.

  • MyNYCHA – NYCHA's Mobile App: MyNYCHA is a free app that puts the repair process in residents’ hands by empowering them to create service requests 24/7. MyNYCHA, which works on mobile devices, smartphones, and tablets, can be used to manage work tickets, receive alerts for development outages, select times for repairs, and reschedule repair dates – reducing calls to NYCHA’s Customer Call Center (CCC) while connecting residents directly to services. A web version of the app was released for residents seeking to utilize MyNYCHA’s features from a computer in their homes, the library, or NYCHA’s Digital Vans. A Spanish-language feature has also been incorporated into both the app and web versions of the program. Since initially launching the MyNYCHA app last year, additional features have been added, including the ability to sign up for the NYCHA Journal and view the history of closed work orders. MyNYCHA has been downloaded roughly 30,000 times, and has been used to generate over 121,000 work orders.

  • NYCHA Self-Service Portal: As part of the New York City Housing Authority’s goal to enhance customer service, NYCHA launched a Self-Service Portal in 2013 – an internet-based site that allows applicants, Public Housing residents, and Section-8 voucher-holders to complete many transactions online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When first deployed, the site enabled residents to file Public Housing applications online, and gave Section 8 voucher holders the ability update their information online. As usage and demand expanded, NYCHA enhanced the Self-Service Portal, streamlining and simplifying many processes.

  • Mobile Workforce – NYCHA’s Handheld Maintenance Initiative: Digital technology also enables NYCHA employees to spend less time on paperwork and more time assisting residents. The Authority is currently piloting the use of a mobile app on Samsung Galaxy smartphones to better manage maintenance and repairs. Staff are assigned work tickets via the smartphones and can update and close work orders in real time. Full deployment of this mobile system is planned by the end of 2016.