Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

New York City addressing data availability, uses

I feel almost as if Mayor Bloomberg saw my previous post about NYC data. PDF09 by stevegarfield PDF09 by stevegarfield

The Sixth Annual Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) began yesterday. (Recap) The forum is examining the convergence of new media and politics, and includes speakers such as Craig’s List’s Craig Newmark, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, venture capitalist Esther Dyson, new media evangelist Jeff Jarvis, and FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver.

Among the topics being discussed are:

  • State-of-the-art online politics and advocacy
  • Designing .gov for participation
  • Twitter as a platform for organizing and fundraising
  • The future of political journalism, blogging and network media
  • How to use online video for political and issue based advocacy
  • The rise of mobile politicking and organizing
  • Rethinking media campaigns and organizations from the ground up

During his keynote on how technology is improving government yesterday morning, NYC Mayor Bloomberg announced the “BiggApps competition,” challenging developers in the audience to “play with city data.”

MayorBloomberg PDF09 by magnifynet

MayorBloomberg PDF09 by magnifynet

Here’s the press release for the competition:


City Providing Data to the Public to Allow for the Development of Applications for Computers and Mobile Devices as Part of “NYC Big Apps” Public Contest; 311 and Enhanced through Skype, Twitter and Google

Obama Administration Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra Applauds City Efforts

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced a series of technology initiatives designed to increase transparency and improve access to information about City services. The City will provide data to allow for the development of software applications that can be used on websites and mobile devices, and through what will become an annual competition known as NYC Big Apps, the City will encourage innovative and useful applications. The Mayor also announced the launch of 311 Online and other improvements to 311 and through services provided by Skype, Twitter and Google. With call volume to 311 continuing to increase, 311 Online will allow the City to maintain the current level of service with current staffing levels, potentially avoiding more than $4 million in additional costs next fiscal year. The Mayor made the announcement in remarks delivered through Skype to the Personal Democracy Forum at Lincoln Center, an annual conference that explores how technology and the Internet are changing politics, democracy and society. New York City Chief Information Officer and Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Paul J. Cosgrave also attended the conference.

“We’ve already made great strides increasing the accessibility of City data and transparency of City government, and these initiatives will use private sector technological innovation to bolster those efforts,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Through NYC Big Apps, 311 Online and services offered by Skype, Twitter and Google, we’re working to provide public information to New Yorkers in as many ways as possible.”

“We applaud New York City’s leadership on delivering a more open and innovative government,” said Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. “These five announcements align well to President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and reflect best practices worthy of replication to achieve excellence in public sector performance.”

“Today’s package of initiatives represents an historic stride in transparency – even for systems that have made accessibility commonplace,” said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Cosgrave. “As successful as we have been in opening up City government to those it serves, the key to technology deployment for any organization is to continue innovating. As 311 and grow, the City needs to adapt and engage New Yorkers in utilizing the data it collects to keep fresh these enduring avenues of access.”

NYC Big Apps

Through the NYC Big Apps annual competition, the City will provide an array of data sets to encourage the public to develop applications that could benefit New Yorkers. Approximately 80 data sets from across 32 City agencies and commissions may be made available on, including such categories as citywide events, property records and sales information, recreational facility directories and restaurant inspection information. The City will invite the public to create innovative applications, and winners will be awarded a cash prize and marketing opportunities. Mayor Bloomberg plans to congratulate the winners in person at a dinner. The contest will begin this fall. The program will be administered by New York City Economic Development Corporation, which today issued a Request for Expressions of Interest to solicit information from software developers and professionals in related fields to identify additional data sets to be aggregated.

“Finding opportunities to engage our innovative high-tech workforce is integral to the continued growth of the media sector in New York City,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “By making City data available to a broader audience and encouraging our entrepreneurs to create new applications using that information, we leverage existing resources to stimulate investment and create jobs.”

311 Online

Mayor Bloomberg launched 311 Online, a one-stop, searchable web portal on for thousands of New York City services. Through the site, New Yorkers can obtain information, report problems, lodge complaints, check the status of previously-filed complaints and request City services – just as they can by calling 311. Users can browse through a directory of City services, search for available services by specific demographic or service type, and access quick links to featured services and top services. Keyword searches and advanced search options allow customers to navigate directly to the information. Users will be able to attach pictures, videos and audio files to their complaints and service requests.

311 Skype and Twitter Accounts

The Mayor announced 311 Skype and Twitter accounts. Through Skype – a software application that enables calls to be made over the Internet – people from around the world will be able to call 311 for free. The City will use Twitter – the free, social messaging service – to ‘tweet’ information regularly about such things as alternate side of the street parking status, schools closures and information about citywide events. 311NYC tweets will be 140 or fewer characters in length and can be sent to any mobile device via texting, instant messaging or the web. Information about emergency events and services will continue to be accessible via Notify NYC.

Google Collaboration to Improve Site Content on

The Mayor also announced that the City is working with Google to use Google search patterns to better understand the usage of and ultimately improve site content. By analyzing trends for New York City-related searches made by Google users, the City will tailor content to user preferences and improve costumer service.


The competition will make about 80 data sets from 32 city agencies and commissions available to developers to create “applications to help Internet users navigate vast stores of data in areas like citywide events, property sales, recreational facilities and restaurant inspections.”

It will be run by the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the winner will get a cash prize, a dinner with Mayor Bloomberg, and marketing opportunities.

At the same time, unrelated to PDF09, a meeting on Open Data Standards in NYC was held by the New York City Council Committee on Technology in Government.

Looks like data is definitely getting some love (or at the very least, lip service) in New York. I wasn’t able to make either event, so if you did, let me know how it went in the comments!

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