“Open.ny.gov creates unprecedented transparency across all levels of government and gives the people user-friendly access to vast quantities of information on our State,” Governor Cuomo
Compiling information in a central location is the first step toward understanding the size and scope of the data that is in the city’s possession. “It’s the equivalent of going to a library, and know you have a card catalog you can go to,” Noel Hidalgo, executive director of the Open NY Forum, a civic data meetup group that was part of the coalition of non-profits that advocated for the law.
In the meantime, some omissions from the new lode are glaring. For example, precinct-level crime data, released on a weekly basis by the NYPD, does not appear to be housed in the portal. The NYPD currently hosts that information on its own website, and makes it available only in PDF format, which makes it nearly impossible to extract and use the data to track crime trends and patterns.
Local Law 11 requires agencies to convert data posted on the web portal to a format that can be used for other purposes, like building applications and running analyses. “Not having it in machine-readable format is almost a disservice, or it’s creating an obtuse government,” said Hidalgo. “Willingly creating data that is not easily consumed by computers, you’re not in 21st century.”
It’s a baby step in the right direction, but it’s a pretty big baby step,” said Noel Hidalgo, executive director of the Open NY Forum and Code for America’s local program manager. “You cannot reinvent the architecture and the practices of government within a year.
One year ago, you made history. One year ago, we got NYC’s Open Data law passed and gave this nation a new gold standard in government transparency.
By opening up and making the City’s data machine readable, the we will be able to build better interfaces and help grow this city into the 21st Century. Together, we will increase the effectiveness of government services and an equitable City for the future.
Today, we stand on the steps of City Hall and look to the future of municipal open data. Over the next few years, it is up to us, the developers, designers, the doers, and the thinkers to be a true partner in open government. It is up to us to be the Government for the people by the people.
Happy Birthday Local Law 11 of 2012! Here’s to a new era in Open Government.
Using mobile technology and creative solutions, the developers behind the winning apps of the Financial Empowerment Hackathon have thought strategically and creatively about how best to approach the challenges facing consumers today,” said Rachel Haot, Chief Digital Officer. “Their apps, which do everything from send automatic phone messages about appointments with financial counselors to quickly pinpointing the nearest Financial Empowerment Center, will help consumers become smarter managers of their money. Once again, New York City’s local technology community has proved an effective partner in serving New Yorkers through technology, and we appreciate these innovative contributions.
At the end of each day, the spokesperson for each state agency logs every call they’ve received from a reporter and sends the tally, through an internal website, to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides. The site, called Newstracker, was developed by the administration to keep tabs on every agency and was implemented after Cuomo took office — adding structure to a less formal checking-in process used by his predecessors. The daily reports include information about who called and what they were told, as well as data about requests filed through the Freedom of Information Law.
In Hidalgo’s update, each new goal shifts from a focus on individual human rights to more social, communal aims. To speak and worship, to live free from fear or want—these are things that we do as individuals. To connect, learn, innovate, and fight tyranny—these are things that we do together. These freedoms don’t replace FDR’s original four, but build upon them, offering a thoughtful set of next steps for anyone thinking about how new social technology can be used to create more equitable communities.
Technology can be hugely helpful in strengthening communities. It can also be a huge distraction. The key is to make sure that new tools serve people first. That’s a self-reinforcing process. The more people there are paying attention and making their voices heard in the discussion about how technology can strengthen offline networks, economies, and places, the more likely it will be that new tools will be designed to make the dialog even more inclusive. In order to change the way that cities are run, the #CivicTech movement should lean more toward civics, and less toward tech.
Every citizen has a seat at the table, and technology’s job right now is to help people understand how they can have an impact on their communities. In Latorre’s words: “The cities that are more open, that are early adopters, are the ones where the citizens are more in charge than the technocrats. The next time you find yourself in a conversation about technology, stop—and start talking about outcomes and goals. Get out of the tiny little box of technology.”