BetaNYC’s support of three bills that would put the city’s laws online, centralize FOIL, and Publishing the City Record online.

Date: Monday, 9 June 2014
From: Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC
To: NY City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations jointly with the Committee on Technology
Subject: Online Publication of City Laws, Centralizing FOIL, and Publishing the City Record online

Honorable Chairs and City Council Members,

I am Noel Hidalgo, the executive director of BetaNYC. It is a great honor to represent New York City’s technology community. Particularly, a rather active group of technologists – the civic hacker.

BetaNYC works to create a New York City government for the people, by the people, for the 21 century. We meet weekly to develop new avenues for civic engagement. We are members of the NYC Transparency Working Group. Collectively, we want to see our City adopt tools, programs, and law that increase transparency, efficiency, and participation.

Last year, our community published the People’s Roadmap to the Digital New York City. This manifesto combined 32 ideas into a foundation for 21st century open government. Today, we are here to talk about a critical component of the roadmap. Access to information.

Today’s hearing covers three laws with historical importance. According to a recent survey, most New Yorkers have cell phones – 98%, 50% have smart phones, and 40% have tablets/eReaders.

Within a few years, a majority of New Yorkers will receive a majority of their information via mobile devices. To ensure content delivery across all devices, we need information to be open and in machine readable formats.

We kindly ask that the Council add “bulk data access” and “machine readability” provisions to Intro-149 and work with the City Law department to improve and prototype the current system.

By placing the law and City Register online and in a machine readable format, New Yorkers can connect to their government regardless of privilege or device.

Lastly, we feel this Open FOIL bill presents a transformative opportunity to increase access and lower the cost of government operations. Just as the first online search engines gave us the ability to see the world wide web, this FOIL amendment gives the public a 21st century process to know how, when, and where information is being kept. Open FOIL presents NYC’s the most logical, secure, and transparent FOIL process for the 21st century.

In conclusion, we support the passage of these three bills and the great research Reinvent Albany has provided. We fundamentally believe these three bills provide a proper foundation for a 21st century New York City government.