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1/20/2011
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NYC Crowdsources City Improvement Ideas

Mayor Bloomberg unveiled virtual suggestion boxes to garner input for making the Big Apple better.

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New York City has launched two new crowdsourcing efforts to solicit ideas from city workers and residents about how to improve the day-to-day life and business of the Big Apple.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the projects -- an internal collaboration site for city workers and a public idea-generation site called "Give a Minute" -- as part of a State of the City address Wednesday.

The first -- a program that leverages social networking technology from a startup called Spigit -- has been launched as a pilot with 15,000 city workers to allow them to submit ideas for how the business of New York can run more smoothly and efficiently. Eventually the mayor plans to expand the site so all of the city's 300,000 employees can use it.

So far, ideas generated by an early pilot of the site include CityMarket, a Web-based site that allows items relinquished by a city agency to be bid on and purchased by other agencies; the Recycling and Energy Conservation Incentive Program, which promotes environmental efforts in city schools by allowing them to spend savings on other programs; and a Web-based help line for city employees for each department.

Give a Minute, another effort introduced Wednesday, is a public 311 of sorts that allows city residents to submit ideas for city improvement according to various themes. Other U.S. cities, including Chicago and Memphis, Tenn. also use the platform.

"This is our kind of open call for ideas -- or 'crowdsourcing,' as it's called -- [which] has helped cutting-edge companies like Facebook and Netflix improve services and save money," Bloomberg said in his address, according to a transcript. "And with more than 8.4 million people in our crowd, imagine what we can come up with."

New York has already been a leader at the metropolitan level in supporting the federal government's open government and IT reform initiatives. Last March, the city unveiled a broad data center consolidation plan to trim costs, create more IT efficiency, and modernize IT infrastructure.

Then in October the city signed a technology partnership with Microsoft to consolidate multiple software contracts, tailor software licensing to suit employee roles, and enable the city to leverage cloud computing.

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