State officials eye video game networks as a means to send emergency warnings to younger residents.
Gamers are used to confronting invading terrorists, nuclear attacks, and natural calamities—in virtual form. But those living in New York State could soon receive warnings about real emergencies through their favorite video console.
State authorities are testing a plan that would see the Emergency Management Office issue alerts over online gaming networks in addition to regular channels.
The goal, said New York State Deputy CIO Rico Singleton, is to reach younger residents who spend more time on the Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii than with television or radio.
Singleton, speaking Thursday at the Interop technology conference in New York City, said the plan makes sense, "considering the amount of time our youth spend on video games."
Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo operate online networks that allow players to compete against each other over the Internet. Under the state's plan, authorities would tap those networks to broadcast warnings about natural or man-made disasters.
Singleton had few details, but confirmed that the plan is in the testing phase.
It's one of many technology initiatives New York State has launched under a program called Empire 2.0. The goal is to make the state's government more "transparent, participatory, and collaborative," said Singleton.
Under Empire 2.0, the Department of Mental Health is monitoring some Facebook posts in an effort to spot suicidal behavior, the Office of Homeland Security is using Second Life to train 700,000 first responders, and senior members of the state CIO's office are using Twitter to disseminate information about technology initiatives to the public.
Additionally, 15,000 of New York State's 190,000 employees have joined Linked In to improve intra-agency communication, while the Senate is publishing bills on a wiki-style blog so that members of the public can mark up proposed legislation. Empire 2.0 also includes many other collaborative projects.
Web 2.0 "is the world we're beginning to live in," said Singleton. "We should be part of the movement," he said.
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