Holden, Kallos to propose new city ‘moonshot’ division
Two New York City lawmakers are launching a moonshot bid to introduce more technological expertise to city government.
Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Robert Holden – who chairs the Council’s Committee on Technology – will propose the creation of a new city Office of Technology and Digital Services, the purpose of which would be to make tech expertise more readily available to city agencies through technology officers who could be embedded in different agencies to help problem-solve or build new software or digital services.
Kallos told City & State that after meeting with New York City Chief Technology Officer John Paul Farmer, they began discussing how the city could get better, and cheaper, access to digital services. “We shared a similar vision for what our city could be doing and how we could be using small pods of software developers to work in an agile way to solve government problems using information technology in a quick, inexpensive and efficient manner,” Kallos said.
The new division would have its own chief technology officer, appointed by the mayor. Part of the CTO’s role would be to advise the mayor and city agencies on digital services, with the goal of placing a CTO at each city agency by 2025.
Holden and Kallos cited events where tech officers could provide expertise, like the 10-day blackout of the New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN) last year, in which a Y2K-like software bug brought down services like remote access to traffic lights and NYPD license-plate readers despite warnings about the bug.
While New York City already has an Office of the Chief Technology Officer, this new office would focus less on citywide initiatives like broadband, and more on building digital services for city agencies. A release from Holden and Kallos notes that the office would also compete with private sector companies for contracts on city technology projects. “There is virtually no problem that can’t be solved with the use of technology and our city agencies should constantly be exploring new and innovative ways to simplify and improve services through the use of technology,” Holden said in a statement.