Ben Kallos, NYC Council Member, introduced a bill that would require city agencies to begin making their data available via user interface / API. This would be a major step towards increasing city efficiency, by enabling the private sector to build solutions that meet their own local needs.
How we currently interact with various government agencies — even for simple tasks like renewing a license, reporting a power outage, or casting a vote — is incomprehensibly cumbersome and time consuming. There’s little reason why these processes have not already been app-enabled and mostly automated, except that our city agencies are fractured and don’t have the bandwidth to pull themselves off legacy systems into the modern world.
“Cities are still thinking about data as archive files. They’re not thinking about streams of data,” Stae co-founder John Edgar told me.
So let’s take this step by step. First, cities already have many sets of data coming from utilities, public transport, ambulances, residence complaints, traffic cameras and more. Instead of exporting a CSV or Excel file every now and then to look at this data, Stae wants to turn this data into APIs. By doing that, Stae standardizes data sets and it becomes easier to manipulate them.
And Stae is not the only one thinking this way. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos just introduced a bill that asks city agencies to share their data using an API.
If enacted, the bill would mean people "won't have to deal with the bureaucracy and red tape of government," argued Kallos, a Democratic councilman who represents Midtown East, the Upper East Side, East Harlem, and Roosevelt Island. "Government gets a lot wrong, and a lot of that comes from having to shove pieces of paper around," he said, explaining that automating all that paper pushing could eliminate or lessen the chances of error.
Kallos said it's all about making government services and public data more easily accessible to constituents. One example already in place: New York City's 311 phone line for reporting non-emergency situations. Under this new law, all new services would include an API that would let people submit requests directly to the city, without having to spend a ton of time on hold and without having to enter their information over and over again, as can often be the case now.
City Council Member Ben Kallos is always looking for ways to make government more efficient and accessible through technology and the use of data. To that end, Kallos, himself a programmer, introduced a bill last week that would require information generated or received by city agencies to be available through an interface that allows easy use of the data and, ideally, a streamlined experience for New Yorkers interacting with their city government.
This would occur through an Application Program Interface (API); essentially, Kallos explained, “a language dictionary so a piece of software can communicate with another software.” Such a system would facilitate the automatic availability of city data through mobile- or web-based applications, opening up opportunities for the private sector to create programs that interact with city government. A program that easily transmits permit and license applications, for example.
GovAPI Act Would Provide Interface for Digital Requests and Submission for All Government Information As Proposed by City Council Member Kallos New York, NY – Long lines, hold music and bureaucratic forms could soon be replaced by an app for that as the private sector innovates government thanks to new legislation (Int.1594) introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos that would require that all information received or transmitted by city government to be available through an Application Program Interface (API).
“Government, there should be an app for that. We need to build an API for government, so that the private sector can innovate and bring government into the 21st century. New Yorkers should be able to use government services as simply as new apps deliver food or a car when you need one,” said New York City Council Member Ben Kallos a free and open source software developer.
Any time a paper form, an operator, or website requests information like a name, email, income, or other details that information could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. Similarly, anytime the city shares information on whether you qualified for public benefits, are registered to vote, or owe taxes that could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. An Application Programming Interface or API provides a set of definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software, or in general terms, it provides a translation dictionary for different software to communicate to make it easier for developers to program new applications.
Low-income seniors and families now have access to high-speed internet service for less than 15 dollars per month through a new program available to customers of Charter Communications, the cable giant that acquired Time Warner Cable last year and offers broadband service in New York through its Spectrum brand.
“Over a million New Yorkers will have access to low-cost broadband” through the Spectrum Internet Assist program, City Council Member Ben Kallos said at an event announcing the initiative at Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center on East 93rd Street last week.
“This new service will ensure internet access is no longer a luxury that goes to the few, but is rather treated as a basic necessity in the 21st Century,” said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.
State regulators gave the Connecticut-based communication company permission last year to buy Time Warner Cable on the condition that it upgrade broadband speeds and expand high-speed Web service to low-income consumers.
City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and Public Advocate Letitia James supported the sale conditions.
“Access to affordable high-speed internet should not be a luxury reserved for few — it is increasingly important for everyone to have access in today’s society," James said in a statement.
“Look out Silicon Valley, here comes Silicon Alley, supported by a city government that is providing the funding, space, and data the tech sector needs to thrive,” stated New York City Council Member Ben Kallos.
“Uber engages with regulators and complies with regulation,” City Council member Ben Kallos said. “And Airbnb does whatever it wants in violation of the law.”
HHS and Intuit Release App to Fight Poverty Nationwide
Federal Government to host Intuit Benefit Assist as a free, open source Tool to Help More Americans
Washington, D.C. – Oct. 13, 2016 – Approximately one in six Americans do not have enough money for food or other essential needs and they often miss out on income-based government benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps or free mobile phone service. To make it easier for Americans to determine eligibility and apply for these benefits, Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU), through a collaboration with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, is releasing to the Federal Government its Benefit Assist software as free, open source code on GitHub with a demonstration. Now anyone, whether state government, non-profit or a developer, can freely use, share and improve upon Benefit Assist to help Americans in find and use these valuable benefits.
States will be able to save money using Benefit Assist to collectively build and improve on the software to reduce overhead, potentially saving our nation billions.
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An online tool from tax preparation company Intuit that can easily determine whether an application is eligible for food stamps or other benefits is now freely available through a federal agency to states, local governments or nonprofit organizations.
Councilman Ben Kallos has been pushing for legislation that would require the city to use income tax filings to determine eligibility for public benefits.
Last year, Intuit made the Benefit Assist tool available to help users of TurboTax determine whether they were eligible for an array of programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare and many others.
The Mayor's Office of Data Analytics and Councilman Ben Kallos are seeking feedback on proposed geospatial open data standardsbeginning Friday.
The proposed standards follow fromlegislationintroduced by Kallos and signed into law last year to improve on the city's open data law. It mandates the establishment of a technical standard that requires every public data set containing address information to utilize a standard layout. The law states that if there is a dataset for which an agency cannot use such a layout, the agency must provide the city and the Council with the reasons preventing it from doing so and a date by which it will be able to comply.
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"Our goal is to make government location-aware and the best way to do that is to standardize geographic information across of all our datasets, so that folks can just throw it on a map easily," Kallos said.
“The law hamstrings case law over and over again, and sometimes that law goes against what everyone wants,” Kallos added.
But he admitted that elected officials are restricted in what they can achieve in office. “Everyone from the city council member to the U.S. president” is faced with the same problem: “wherever you go, somehow you don’t have the power,” he said.
“We’ve got a democratic government, and it’s broken in a lot of different ways,” Kallos warned, adding that one pivotal challenge is that “a lot of people aren’t really engaging most of the time, and what ends up happening is we’re not included in the decision-making process. … Democracy actually requires, and in many places demands, public input.”
Currently members of the public usually must show up at day time public hearings at City Hall or 250 Broadway that can last hours with public testimony often limited to only two minutes thereby limiting input and engagement in the legislative process from the public.
“New Yorkers should be able to ‘like’ and comment on City Council legislation to make civic engagement as easy as Facebook,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee of Governmental Operations. “Government must engage residents where they are in the way they want to engage, which means updating our legislative rules so people can engage online.”
The city has begun publishing detailed budget data on its open data portal, not long after Councilman Ben Kallos introduced legislation that would require making the budget information accessible in a format that is searchable and accessible to third-party applications.
As chair of the Committee on Government Operations, Kallos oversees the Financial Information Services Agency, which operates the software that manages the city budget. He was able to confirm with FISA that its software can easily make the budget available in an open format.
The mayor's Office of Management and Budget has worked with Kallos and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, chair of the Finance Committee, to make several key budget documents available in searchable format on the open data portal, rather than just PDF formats.
According to the playbook site, the city took input from residents, as well as several civic and technology leaders, elected and city government officials and providers, along with examples from other governments and the private sector.
The playbook specifically credits City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Councilmembers Ben Kallos, James Vacca, Brad Lander, Vanessa Gibson and Helen Rosenthal. It also credits the organizations Bangladesh-American Community Council, the Brite Leadership Coalition, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the Central Family Life Center, Adhikaar, Make the Road NY and MASA.
New York, NY – How New York City spends $82 billion is about to get more transparent, with a city budget that is searchable and computer readable instead of printed or in lengthy PDFs, through legislation from Council Member Ben Kallos that would require the budget to be searchable, posted in open formats, and available for third parties to “build an app for that.”
“New Yorkers should be able to search the city’s budget to see how every penny of their tax dollars is being spent,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer and open data advocate. “Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, for their partnership in advocacy for an Open Budget.”
City Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer and long-time advocate for government transparency who now chairs the Council’s governmental operations committee, agrees that free trainings should be offered for New Yorkers interested in learning how to use the open data portal. He suggests partnering with the city’s three public library systems (New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Public Library) to train librarians who can teach patrons to use the open data portal as a research resource. Featuring the open data portal on library websites and other logical online research centers would be helpful in expanding usership and public awareness.
Kallos acknowledged that New Yorkers must have basic access in order to use the open data portal.
“I want to make sure that every low-income New Yorker has access to free and affordable broadband and low-cost computers. That would mean everyone in NYCHA should have free broadband and that anyone who is low-income should have an affordable internet plan,” Kallos told Gotham Gazette. “In order to have a modern government, we need to make sure that everyone can connect.”
LinkNYC, which rolled out in January with the installation of kiosks along Third Avenue in Gramercy, the East Village and the Upper East Side, is eventually intended to grow into a citywide network, with as many as 10,000 kiosks, officials said.
Reps from CityBridge, city officials and Councilman Ben Kallos celebrated the official start to the LinkNYC Project on Tuesday.
“Something had to be done about the city’s payphone booths that were often missing the phones,” said City Councilmember Ben Kallos, an East Side Democrat who has been advocating for payphone reform since 2013. “Fast forward to today in 2016. We now have access to free Wi-Fi… at no cost to taxpayers.”
Kallos added that LinkNYC’s free services would provide the city with an annual $20 million in advertising revenue, through the franchising agreement established with CityBridge, which manages the program.