December 6, 2012 By Noelle Knell
At a New York Tech Meetup event on Dec. 4, Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a challenge to attendees via video message, the latest attempt by city leadership to enlist citizen participation in technology initiatives. “Re-Own the Phone,” Bloomberg beckoned, asking for ideas on how to re-invent payphone sites and their surrounding enclosures.
In recent months, Government Technology has reported on different NYC pilot projects aimed at injecting modernity into its dwindling payphone inventory. Interactive smart screens featuring neighborhood-specific information now adorn some phone booths, while others now act as Wi-Fi hot spots.
City officials report that even though the current inventory of more than 11,000 payphones is substantially less than the 35,000 of the mid-1990s, they still provide a vital function to citizens in this largely digital world.
“While the widespread adoption of mobile devices reduces the overall need for payphones, not everyone owns a mobile phone and not everyone has connectivity at all times,” reads a press release issued by the city in announcing the “Reinvent Payphones” initiative.
Usage of New York City payphones surged during superstorm Sandy, when cell reception was severely impacted. The existing contract between New York City and a private contractor to operate the city’s payphones expires in October 2014.
“We’re asking our tech community for new takes on older technology, and inviting designs about how they might enhance the vitality of our public spaces,” said Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Rahul N. Merchant.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.