News from the Blue Room Mayor Bloomberg Unveils Connected City Initiative by Stu Loeser
New Technological Capabilities, Spanning All Aspects of City Services, Will Make City Government More Accessible and Accountable
New iPhone App - Championed by City Council Speaker Quinn and Council Member Brewer - Will Let New Yorkers Report Issues to 311 with GPS Technology
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the Connected City Initiative, a series of technology programs to transform the ways in which New Yorkers can interact with – and expect the delivery of services from – City government. Building upon successful projects that have made New York City a pioneer in using technology to improve public services, the Mayor outlined a series of initiatives to make City government more accessible and accountable. They include providing a new iPhone application for New Yorkers to report issues and send photos to 311 with specific location details using GPS technology – an idea championed by Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Member Gale Brewer; increasing the number of New Yorkers with access to Electronic Health Records; and eliminating many of the bureaucratic barriers to starting a small business. Additional aims include increasing the use of social networking to improve government efficiency; making the City more sustainable by consolidating data centers citywide and promoting the use of electronic mailings; and increasing broadband adoption among low-income New Yorkers. The Mayor made the announcement at the IBM SmarterCities Forum in Manhattan.
“Every day, new technological innovations help make information flow faster, systems work better and our lives a little easier,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “But often, when it comes to adopting new technology, governments lag behind the private sector and even the casual consumer because they are unwilling or unable to try something new and change the way things have always been done. That’s small-minded thinking. In serving the public, government should constantly be looking for new and better ways to provide information and services. The creation of 311 was a major advancement in that effort, but we never stop looking for ways to improve. The programs of the Connected City Initiative represent the latest steps we’re taking to employ technology to serve New Yorkers better.”
Making New York City Government More Accessible and Efficient by Using Existing Social Networking Outlets, Expanding Language Access, and Consolidating Data Centers
Starting today, New Yorkers can submit select quality-of-life complaints – with an option to attach pictures – to 311 via their iPhones. New Yorkers are already able to report complaints to 311 through mobile web browsers. The new, free iPhone application will streamline the process by allowing New Yorkers to report complaints to 311 using a program that identifies the user, determines the specific location of the condition reported using GPS technology, and allows easy uploads of photos. Going forward, this functionality will be expanded to other mobile phones, and enhanced so that any New Yorker can check the status of previously-reported issues.
Mayor Bloomberg also announced plans for “MyNYC.gov,” a customized version of the City’s website NYC.gov based on users’ needs and preferences. MyNYC.gov will feature an optional, customized dashboard for quick and centralized access to information relevant to the user, with contact information automatically populating forms.
311Online – the NYC.gov website that compliments 311 – will be expanded to include every service currently available by calling 311. 311Online receives nearly 12,000 visitors per week, but today it offers only about half of the services available through the 311 phone line. By January 2010, 90 percent of 311’s service requests will be available via 311Online.
The City has also recently moved 311 into the social networking space, with ‘311NYC’ now on Twitter. Mayor Bloomberg announced today that the City will increase these capabilities, using social networking to disseminate information quickly and efficiently in ways that reach New Yorkers wherever they are. More content from 311 and NYC.gov will be distributed via social networking as 311 will start to receive feedback, questions and concerns from customers via Twitter. To further this dialogue, the City will also help to develop neighborhood “wikis” – collaborative websites whose content can be edited by users – to share ideas for how technology could be leveraged to solve everyday problems faced by New Yorkers living and working in different communities across the five boroughs.
Building on the 2008 Executive Order requiring agencies to make forms available in the six most common languages spoken by New Yorkers, Mayor Bloomberg described plans to replicate this capability on the Internet. City agencies that have direct interaction with New Yorkers will be required to translate essential documents and post them on their websites with easy-to-read, translated descriptions for each document. Agencies will have more essential documents translated and posted online by the end of 2010. The City will also build a new site featuring information about select City services of importance to immigrants and residents alike, available through applications and notices available in English, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese.
Making New Yorkers Healthier by Increasing Access to Electronic Health Records
The Mayor also announced that the City is committed to increasing access to Electronic Health Records. The Primary Care Information Project, an initiative the City began in 2005, has brought more than 1,500 primary care physicians onto an Electronic Health Records system designed to support prevention and high quality of care. As a result, more than one million New Yorkers now receive care that is informed by customized physician alerts to ensure they receive prevention when it will be most effective. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will now work in concert with the Federal government to expand preventive Electronic Health Records to more primary care providers serving patients across New York City. This network of primary care practices equipped with health information technology will serve as the platform for a smart and effective City health care system where patients get the right care at the right time.
Making New York City More Sustainable by Promoting Electronic Mailings
Delivering on a promise made in his 2009 State of the City Address, Mayor Bloomberg launched the New York City IT Infrastructure Services (NYCitiServ) initiative, an ambitious effort led by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) to unify the City’s information technology operations for the first time. Today, there are more than 55 data centers across 42 City agencies, which make management of facilities and services expensive and inefficient. A consolidated environment will improve the resiliency, security and recovery capability of the entire system – while helping to green the City’s IT infrastructure and make it more energy efficient. The first consolidated data center will be in operation in early 2010. Through NYCitiServ’s combined efforts the City could achieve significant IT infrastructure savings over the coming years.
City agencies conduct countless mailings every year encompassing everything from water bills to changes in recycling guidelines. Starting today, the City will begin sending mailings through a pilot program with Zumbox, a secure electronic mailbox company that creates individual accounts assigned to a street address. This service allows City agencies to create communications specifically tailored to them, including mailings about promotions, events, or City work that is going on in their neighborhoods; citywide notifications and PSAs including recycling guidelines or locations of City facilities; and home and business-specific government notifications like property tax notifications. Depending on the success of the pilot, the City may reduce paper mailings, which will reduce paper waste, reduce mailing costs for City agencies, and provide targeted, real-time information to New Yorkers.
Closing the City’s Digital Divide by Increasing Broadband Availability in Public Access Centers and Encouraging Adoption of the Technology in Homes
Recognizing broadband access as essential to life in the 21st century, Mayor Bloomberg announced initiatives aimed at keeping New Yorkers connected to their City by outlining programs aimed at boosting broadband access and adoption in underserved areas and among low-income families. While more than 98 percent of New Yorkers have access to broadband, and a significant majority has access to at least two providers, a disparity exists in broadband adoption. The adoption rate among low-income residents lags significantly compared to other income groups – leaving many New Yorkers without the equipment, training, or service to successfully take advantage of the Internet.
The NYC Connected Learning initiative is aimed addressing these challenges by providing low-income 6th graders and their families in the City’s highest-poverty communities with computers, training and resources to help them to succeed in middle school and beyond. Broadband will be utilized to establish critical links between school and home through access to free email accounts and online learning tools accessible by students both in the classroom and from home. NYC Connected Learning will be able to serve nearly 20,000 students and nearly 43,000 household members.
The NYC Connected Communities initiative will make critical enhancements to public computer centers in low-income communities around New York City. Confronting multiple obstacles to broadband use simultaneously, the program will provide greater availability of public computers with broadband connectivity, digital literacy training, comprehensive technical support, marketing and awareness building, and a variety of job training and employment support services that address the economic challenges facing New Yorkers. The program is to be implemented through partnerships with a diverse array of groups – including libraries, recreation centers, and senior centers – in order to ensure services are available across the social spectrum in each low-income community selected. The program is expected to serve as many as 323,000 New Yorkers in two years.
The City is aggressively pursuing stimulus federal stimulus funds and fostering valuable partnerships with corporate and not-for-profit sponsors to fund NYC Connected Learning and NYC Connected Communities.
Making New York City More User-Friendly through Mobile Technology
Earlier this week, Mayor Bloomberg announced a comprehensive new strategy to make parking in New York City easier, more efficient and more user-friendly through testing and studying new technology that would allow New Yorkers to view a map of available parking spaces, receive alerts when their meters are about to expire and pay parking meters all on their mobile device. In addition to the conveniences motorists would enjoy, the plan will bolster the City’s sustainability program. The parking plan will cause fewer drivers to circle for blocks searching for a parking space, reducing vehicle miles traveled, which will cut down on congestion and the air pollution and carbon emissions that come with it.
Making New York City More Business-Friendly by Allowing Small Business to Transact with the City Online
The City is building NYC Business Express, a single website where business customers starting, operating or expanding a business in New York City can access information and manage their interactions with the City. NYC Business Express provides customized, up-to-date information and step-by-step instructions for meeting government requirements for 15 industry sectors, representing over 92 percent of businesses in the City and receive eligibility estimates for 44 City, State and Federal incentives. By the end of this year, customers will be able to apply online for 31 City licenses, permit and certificates – all through one website.