New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today his Connected City Initiative, a host of IT projects designed to make citizen interaction with local government easier and more Web-centric. The New York city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) will administrate most of the projects.
The mayor premiered a new iPhone application enabling citizens to submit certain types of 311 complaints from the Apple phones and to attach pictures to those submissions. The iPhone component expands upon a 311 Web interface that New York introduced last July. The updated version taps the iPhone’s GPS system to tell the city exactly where the user was when he or she sent the complaint. Citizens can override that and manually enter the location if they’re no longer standing in the location of what they’re reporting. The application requests the citizen’s e-mail address to offer an update after the situation has been resolved, but that is optional.
“We like to follow up with the user and let them know their complaint has been e-mailed,” said Paul Cosgrave, commissioner of DoITT.
The agency plans to offer more 311 services online. Currently only half of the city’s 311 offerings are accessible on the Web. New York also plans to disseminate more 311-related data on social networks, like Twitter, and to answer more questions on social networks as well. DoITT plans to help develop neighborhood wiki sites for citizens to share technology ideas for solving various New York-related problems.
The city will soon have a more multilingual presence online. Agencies that have direct interaction with citizens will be required to translate “essential” documents and post them on their Web sites with translated descriptions for each document. The project is set for completion by the end of 2010. The city will also build a Web site featuring information about municipal services of importance to immigrants available through applications and notices in English, Spanish, Russian and Chinese.
Server consolidation fever has finally hit the Big Apple. DoITT hopes to save roughly $30 million annually in energy costs by consolidating 55 non-public safety data centers down to a single-digit figure yet to be determined, according to Cosgrave. Maintaining 55 data centers that serve 42 agencies is also costly and inefficient, said Cosgrave.
The mayor’s Connected City Initiative includes a program called NYC Connected Learning designed to bridge the digital divide. NYC Connected Learning will offer low-income sixth-graders computers, training and free Internet access to special e-mail accounts and select learning sites. New York aims to deploy updated technology in libraries, community centers and various other centers of activity within low-income areas. DoITT will administrate the program, but stimulus money and corporate sponsorships are expected to fund it.
IT is set to play a role in Bloomberg’s strategy to improve parking, announced earlier this week. The city plans to create an application that would alert drivers to available parking spaces as they search from behind the wheel. Cosgrave said the DoITT was still exploring a technological way to do that, but it would likely be connected to the city’s credit card-reading parking meters. Additionally the mayor’s parking agenda includes a plan for enabling citizens to pay parking meters from smartphones online. This means a driver needing more time on the meter while at a checkout counter or in a meeting could put more money on the meter without racing back to the street, explained Cosgrave.