June 24, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
New York City recently deployed its NYC Stimulus Tracker, an online citizen tool for tracking where money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act goes in the city and monitoring the progress of the projects.
The tracker subdivides projects into eight categories. For example, by clicking on the tracker's "Health and Social Support" category, a user can see that the city's share of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rose by $841 million due to stimulus money. After clicking on the program listing, the user also learns whether that program's execution is on time, fewer than 30 days behind schedule or more than 30 days late. In this case, it's on time. The screen also reports that more than 1.4 million citizens will be served by the SNAP expenditure.
The NYC Stimulus Tracker shows the various ways the stimulus "serves" citizens, said Marc LaVorgna, spokesman of the New York City Mayor's Office of Operations. In the case of the SNAP, the tracker shows the number of additional food stamp recipients. It also chronicles the number of jobs created or retained for infrastructure projects like the Brooklyn Bridge rehabilitation.
Many states have launched their own public-facing Web sites to track projects funded by the economic stimulus, but New York City is among the first cities to do so.
The Web tool also offers a map showing citizens the various city locations that are using stimulus money. Enhancements to the map -- showing greater detail -- are forthcoming, LaVorgna said.
The Mayor's Office of Operations enters all stimulus data into the tool on behalf of the agencies that are using the money. "That office is aware of dollars as they come in and works in concert with every city agency that has received any," LaVorgna said.
The office already was maintaining an online tool for tracking projects unrelated to the stimulus. That made online reporting of stimulus projects a breeze, said LaVorgna. The staff used in-house resources in conjunction with an existing Accenture contract to build the tracker.
Next week the NYC Stimulus Tracker will introduce additional features, like summary reports showing funding allocations by borough and agency. "Filter and sort" features for customizing report views will premier next week as well, among other new features, said LaVorgna.
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.