At the same time that it's closing a majority of its data centers, New York City is opening its data.
In a keynote presentation at InformationWeek's Government IT Leadership Forum, Carole Post, commissioner of New York's Department of IT and Telecommunications, outlined a series of open government initiatives under way in the Big Apple. Hundreds of data sets are now available in machine-readable formats through NYC DataMine, an online catalog of public data, and pending legislation would make even more city data available.
New York is in talks with Boston, Seattle, and the federal government on ways to normalize data that they might measure differently, and potentially even host their data on a common platform and provide open APIs.
"This, to me, is kind of the real excitement, the real innovation," Post said at the forum, which took place on May 5 in Washington, D.C. "No one city, one agency, or one entity needs to solve these problems on their own. By grouping together, we make for better lessons learned, as well as better solutions."
New York recently concluded its second "NYC BigApps" development contest. Winners included Parking Finder, a mobile app for finding parking spaces, and DontEat.at, which sends a text message warning to FourSquare users who check into a restaurant that's at risk of being closed for health-code violations.
Open APIs have potential for innovation, says Post
Post's team has also created an "idea market" where employees can share ideas for saving money and improving their jobs. For example, the city sought ideas on how to reduce its use of paper. About 10% of the city's 300,000 employees were invited to participate in a pilot program on the idea market.
"There are incredibly good ideas out there, and we haven't really had a platform to tap that," Post said.
In addition, New York is consolidating most of its 60 data centers into a new 20,000-square-foot facility in Brooklyn, and it's adding capabilities to its wireless network to support remote control of traffic signals and automatic water-meter reading. And the city is deploying free Wi-Fi in public parks through agreements with cable providers.