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5/16/2011
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NYC Digital Government Plan Embraces Social Networking

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Tumblr are partnering with the city to help it use social media to enhance public engagement, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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Social networking is key to a comprehensive plan New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled Monday in an effort to make the Big Apple the leading U.S. digital city.

New York is partnering with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Tumblr to help the city better leverage the Web to connect with residents and use social media as part of the fabric of its public-engagement strategy, Bloomberg and Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne said.

The move is part of a larger, 65-page Road Map for the Digital City unveiled after a 90-day review by city officials and agencies about what New York can do to enhance its use of digital media and its overall standing nationwide as a digital city, according to the mayor's office.

Facebook will be the first site the city will step into with its new digital footprint. Within 45 days, the city will unveil its first streamlined Facebook page that will include sharing features with the NYC.gov site as well as a link to New York's online 311 service.

Bloomberg and Sterne also want to encourage city residents to use the page to offer opinions, engage in discussion, ask questions, and participate in city-sponsored polls, they said.

Similarly, New York officials will use Twitter (@nycgov) to provide updates on city services and other helpful information. New York also will be the first city to leverage the social media site's Fast Follow service so residents can receive city Twitter updates via SMS, officials said.

New York will leverage Foursquare, an online service that allows people to share their whereabouts by "checking in" virtually to different locations, not only to engage with the public but to encourage local businesses to explore online advertising opportunities. The city's Department of Small Business Services with work with the New York-based online company to develop and distribute a toolkit so small businesses can learn how they can use the service for marketing and advertising.

Tumblr is another New York-based online company; the service allows people to share text, photos, and video with each other. City agencies will work with the startup to start their own media-sharing pages on the site, officials said.

Perhaps more than any other U.S. city-even technology-centric San Francisco--New York has been at the forefront of following the federal government's open-government lead. Like the feds, the city has embarked on a broad data-consolidation project, revealing a new centralized location for the city's 50 data centers in March.

It also will be one of the first cities alongside Washington D.C. to deploy a new nationwide emergency alert system that leverages mobile devices to send information to people in the event of potentially hazardous situations such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters. The system--Personal Localized Alerting Network, or PLAN--was even unveiled at the World Trade Center site in New York last week.

New York officials have been particularly interested in the public-engagement aspect of open government, which mandates the use of technology and the Web to serve its constituency better. In fact, Bloomberg appointed Sterne in January as the city's first-ever chief digital officer to drive the city's social-media agenda and to explore ways New York can use digital media to reach its residents.

Earlier this year in his State of the City address, Bloomberg also unveiled two new crowdsourcing efforts aimed at soliciting ideas from city workers and residents about how to improve the day-to-day life and business of the Big Apple.

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