Date: Monday, 23 Feb 2014
From: Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC
To: NY City Council’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections.
Subject: For a modern 21st Century City, NY Council needs modern and inexpensive member services and tools constituent services.
Dear Chairman and Committee Members,
Good afternoon. It is a great honor to address you and represent New York City’s technology community. Particularly, a rather active group of technologists – the civic hacker.
I am Noel Hidalgo, the Executive Director and co-founded of BetaNYC. With over 1,500 members, BetaNYC’s mission is to build a city powered by the people, for the people, for the 21st Century. Last fall, we published a “People’s Roadmap to a Digital New York City” where we outline our civic technology values and 30 policy ideas for a progressive digital city . We are a member driven organization and members of the New York City Transparency Working Group, a coalition of good government groups that supported the City’s transformative Open Data Law.
In 2008, BetaNYC got its start by building a small app on top of twitter. This tool, Twitter Vote Report, was built over the course of several, then, developer days, now, hacknights, and enabled over 11,300 individuals to use a digital and social tool to provide election projection.
Around the world, apps like this catalyzed our current civic hacking moment. Today, hundred of thousands of developers, designers, mappers, hackers, and yackers (the policy wonks) volunteer their time to analyze data, build public engagement applications, and use their skills for improving the quality of lives of their neighbors. This past weekend, we had Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Ben Kallos, Councilmember Mark Levine, a representative from Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and representatives from five Community Boards kick challenge over 100 civic hackers to prototype 21st Century interfaces to NYC’s open data.
Though this conversation on rules reform, you have an opportunity to continue the pioneering work, a small talented team of civic hackers and I did WITHIN the New York State Senate.
In 2004, I moved from Boston to work for then Senator Patterson’s Minority Information Services department. In 2009, I re-joined NY State Senate’s first Chief Information Officer office. Our team’s mission was to move the State Senate from zero to hero, depoliticize technology, and build open-reusable tools for all.
In the course of four months, we modernized the Senate’s public information portal and lead the way for two years of digital transparency, efficiency, and participation. These initiatives were award winning and done under the banner of “Open Senate”
Open Senate is an online “Gov 2.0″ program intended to make the Senate one of the most transparent, efficient, and participatory legislative bodies in the nation. Open Senate is comprised of multiple sub-projects led by the Office of the Chief Information Officer [CIO] in the New York State Senate, ranging from migrating to cost effective, open-source software solutions, to developing and sharing original web services providing access to government transparency data, to promoting the use of social networks and online citizen engagement.
We did this because we all know how New Yorkers are getting their information. I don’t need to sit here and spout off academic number of digital connectivity. One just has to hop into a subway station to see just about everyone on some sort of digital device.
For a modern NY City Council with 21st century members services, the council needs a Chief Information Officer and dedicated staff. The role of this office would be similar to the NYSenate’s CIO. Be empowered to create ranging from migrating to cost effective, open-source software solutions, to developing and sharing original web services providing access to government transparency data, to promoting the use of social networks and online citizen engagement.
Through this office, the Council would gain an empowered digital and information officer to coordinate the development and enhancement of member and constituent services.