June 29, 2009City Providing Data to the Public to Allow for the Development of Applications for Computers and Mobile Devices as Part of "NYC Big Apps" Public Contest; 311 and NYC.gov Enhanced through Skype, Twitter and Google
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced a series of technology initiatives designed to increase transparency and improve access to information about City services. The City will provide data to allow for the development of software applications that can be used on websites and mobile devices, and through what will become an annual competition known as NYC Big Apps, the City will encourage innovative and useful applications. The Mayor also announced the launch of 311 Online and other improvements to 311 and NYC.gov through services provided by Skype, Twitter and Google. With call volume to 311 continuing to increase, 311 Online will allow the City to maintain the current level of service with current staffing levels, potentially avoiding more than $4 million in additional costs next fiscal year. The Mayor made the announcement in remarks delivered through Skype to the Personal Democracy Forum at Lincoln Center, an annual conference that explores how technology and the Internet are changing politics, democracy and society. New York City Chief Information Officer and Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Paul J. Cosgrave also attended the conference.
"We've already made great strides increasing the accessibility of City data and transparency of City government, and these initiatives will use private sector technological innovation to bolster those efforts," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Through NYC Big Apps, 311 Online and services offered by Skype, Twitter and Google, we're working to provide public information to New Yorkers in as many ways as possible."
"We applaud New York City's leadership on delivering a more open and innovative government," said Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. "These five announcements align well to President Obama's Open Government Initiative and reflect best practices worthy of replication to achieve excellence in public sector performance."
"Today's package of initiatives represents an historic stride in transparency - even for systems that have made accessibility commonplace," said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Cosgrave. "As successful as we have been in opening up City government to those it serves, the key to technology deployment for any organization is to continue innovating. As 311 and NYC.gov grow, the City needs to adapt and engage New Yorkers in utilizing the data it collects to keep fresh these enduring avenues of access."
NYC Big Apps
Through the NYC Big Apps annual competition, the City will provide an array of data sets to encourage the public to develop applications that could benefit New Yorkers. Approximately 80 data sets from across 32 City agencies and commissions may be made available on NYC.gov, including such categories as citywide events, property records and sales information, recreational facility directories and restaurant inspection information. The City will invite the public to create innovative applications, and winners will be awarded a cash prize and marketing opportunities. Mayor Bloomberg plans to congratulate the winners in person at a dinner. The contest will begin this fall. The program will be administered by New York City Economic Development Corporation, which today issued a Request for Expressions of Interest to solicit information from software developers and professionals in related fields to identify additional data sets to be aggregated.
"Finding opportunities to engage our innovative high-tech workforce is integral to the continued growth of the media sector in New York City," said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. "By making City data available to a broader audience and encouraging our entrepreneurs to create new applications using that information, we leverage existing resources to stimulate investment and create jobs."
Mayor Bloomberg launched 311 Online, a one-stop, searchable web portal on NYC.gov for thousands of New York City services. Through the site, New Yorkers can obtain information, report problems, lodge complaints, check the status of previously-filed complaints and request City services - just as they can by calling 311. Users can browse through a directory of City services, search for available services by specific demographic or service type, and access quick links to featured services and top services. Keyword searches and advanced search options allow customers to navigate directly to the information. Users will be able to attach pictures, videos and audio files to their complaints and service requests.
311 Skype and Twitter Accounts
The Mayor announced 311 Skype and Twitter accounts. Through Skype - a software application that enables calls to be made over the Internet - people from around the world will be able to call 311 for free. The City will use Twitter - the free, social messaging service - to 'tweet' information regularly about such things as alternate side of the street parking status, schools closures and information about citywide events. 311NYC tweets will be 140 or fewer characters in length and can be sent to any mobile device via texting, instant messaging or the web. Information about emergency events and services will continue to be accessible via Notify NYC.
Google Collaboration to Improve Site Content on NYC.gov
The Mayor also announced that the City is working with Google to use Google search patterns to better understand the usage of NYC.gov and ultimately improve site content. By analyzing trends for New York City-related searches made by Google users, the City will tailor content to user preferences and improve customer service.