💻 📊🗽🧡 NYC School of Data 2020 Recap

It feels like over a century ago, but in early March, nearly 500 people gathered to celebrate open data at BetaNYC’s sixth annual NYC School of Data, the finale of NYC Open Data Week. This year’s day-long conference focused on civics, technology and design in the next decade, and hosted a record number of sessions, demos, speakers, participants and volunteers, spanning three floors of CUNY School of Law, who made our #civictech dreams come true. #swoon

We had several goals in mind when planning the event. We teamed up with the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics to closeout NYC Open Data Week and 1) bring people together under one roof to share, learn and exchange parts of their civic tech and open data worlds 2) celebrate open data efforts in NYC and 3) support new connections and collaborations so that more great things can take place in the future.

Tallying up the numbers, revisiting the stories, and looking back through the upset that has been Covid19, we are more certain than ever that this community plays a critical role in stewarding in the new, stitching up the old, and setting the tone for civic life in NYC, and that we are here to stay— we need to.

There were many highlights. The morning kicked off with opening remarks from BetaNYC Executive Director, Noel Hidalgo, DoITT Commissioner Jessica Tisch, CUNY Law School Dean Mary Lu Bilek, BetaNYC Civic Innovation Fellow Gabrielle Langston, NYC Deputy Chief Analytics Officer Adrienne Schmoeker and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. These guests of honor set the tone for the day, sharing their efforts, hopes and dreams for open data and NYC. Check out their Opening Remarks and Keynote.

“Real change comes from transferring the power of data from the penthouses to the fields, putting the data in the hands of the lives of the people that make the city go, that make the city great…”

Mary Lu Bilek, Dean of CUNY Law School
Photograph by Dan Wu / CC BY

Throughout the day, 485 attendees dispersed across 3 floors of CUNY Law School and collectively engaged in a program of 65 SESSIONS, which included talks, workshops, panels, and demos led by 148 PEOPLE— an impressive third of whom represent government. A staff of 45 incredible and helpful VOLUNTEERS jumped right in and assisted the production with our team. We were also so glad to be have the Internet Society New York Chapter set up LIVESTREAMS in 3 rooms and capture 15 sessions, which you can view here or on YouTube.

Tune in via YouTube / view the 2020 playlist

Photograph by Dan Wu / CC BY

“Damn, a tech conference that isn’t women-specific where the majority of attendees use she/her pronouns!”


Of the 485 guests who checked in, 41% of you who reported back, told us that you use use the pronoun he/him, 43% she/her, 3% they/their, and 13% use another pronoun or did not report. These stats indicate to us that this community represents a diverse sliver of humanity, and that as an organization, we are on track. In the the sea of tech conferences, we hope to see more organizations embodying and achieving inclusivity at events.

Photograph by Laida

At the end of the day everyone gathered in the main auditorium for a quirky (and quite frankly hilarious) civictech PechaKucha (lightning talks). Special guest TIME TRAVELERS joined us and told us all about NYC’s future. The talks were witty and visionary, and truly closed things out with a bang. A huge shout out and thank you to our time travelers, New York City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Mari Nakano of the NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, Gabriella Capone of Legal Hackers NYC, Piyali Kundu of GeoNYC, Chris Whong of Qri and Aidan Feldman of US Government’s Technology Transformation Services. You sent us off into our soon-to-transpire quarantines, roaring in laughter and inspiration. If you didn’t catch them, these videos are great companions during our lockdown.

Have a huge smile in my heart from all the great questions, discussions, LOLs & ideas to try with my work from this year’s #nycSoData. Thanks to @BetaNYC & all organizers!


It was an honor to close out NYC’s Open Data week with you. Thank you, session leaders, speakers, guests, volunteers, participants, sponsors, partners and vendors. Thank you for making it happen. Thank you for participating and for being kind. Thank you for using lots of hand sanitizer or staying home if you were sick. Thank you for supporting the event and this work. Thank you for doing it, for being this everlasting community.

If anything, these past two months have taught us how valuable it is to be connected, to express gratitude whenever possible, and to channel our collective love for open data to stay informed and civically engaged. We can’t wait to see you again. In the meantime, please keep in touch with us on any of our channels at https://beta.nyc/community. We love hearing what you’re up to.

Thank you to all our event sponsors and supporters who made this event possible.

Event Sponsors:

BetaNYC supporters:

Event Partners and Allies:

Event Stats

# Sessions65
% Sessions with government representation32
# Speakers148
# Volunteers45
# Sponsors & Partners18
# Ticket Holders584
% Government Ticket holders28
# Checked in Ticket holders478
% Government Checked-in Ticket Holders29
# Children8
# Pronouns – She/Her/Hers (ticket holders)262
# Pronouns – He/Him/His (ticket holders)247
# Pronouns – They/Them/Theirs + Other (ticket holders)23
% agreed to share info w/ sponsors42
% NYC Ticket holders81
% NYC Metro Area Ticket holders10
% World Ticket holders3
# World nations5 (Canada, United Kingdom, Mexico, Spain, Japan)

“We are a collectively building a culture of data and technology that improves service…We believe in collective action to survive and thrive… We believe in perpetual feedback loops to improve ourselves… We are in control of our own destiny.”

Noel Hidalgo, BetaNYC