July 1, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
Photo: New York City CIO Paul Cosgrave/Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a series of IT initiatives this week that aim to improve government transparency and access to the city's information.
Similar to the Apps for Democracy contest that Washington, D.C., hosted for the first time last year, New York's version of the contest, called NYC Big Apps, will challenge citizens to use publicly-available data to build applications specifically for interacting with government that can run on Web sites and mobile devices.
Bloomberg also announced the deployment of 311 Online. Rather than using the phone, New Yorkers can now jump online to report problems, submit complaints, check the status of previously-filed complaints and request city services. The initiative promises that users can get exactly where they need to go on the Web site using a keyword search.
The city also announced it's operating Skype and Twitter accounts exclusively for accessing 311 service. Skype is a software application that allows users to make free phone calls over the Internet, while Twitter is a popular Web-based "short messaging service" that limits all messages to a maximum of 140 characters. Tweets will report information like street parking status, school closures and information about citywide events. Those improvements are part of another initiative Bloomberg announced called NYC 311, which is a searchable Web portal for browsing city services.
Bloomberg also said the city would use Google search patterns to better understand how citizens use NYC.gov, the city's Web portal. By analyzing trends for New York City-related searches made by Google users, the city will tailor its content to user preferences.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.