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10/5/2011
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New York Seeks To Turn Ideas Into Mobile Apps

At Interop, NY CIO Carole Post outlines next steps in the city's open government and IT modernization initiatives, including a mobile apps competition.

14 Most Popular Government Mobile Apps
Slideshow: 14 Most Popular Government Mobile Apps
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New York City is getting ready to launch its third annual mobile apps competition, the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at "unlocking" the city's data, CIO Carole Post said in a keynote presentation at the Interop technology conference and expo, a UBM TechWeb event, in New York City.

New York's mobile applications development competition, NYC Big Apps, has been an early, successful example of the trend in which government data is used by independent developers to create innovative applications. Last year's winners included Roadify, an iPhone app populated by real-time transit information, and Sportaneous, a location-based app that points users to pickup games in their neighborhood.

This year, in advance of the NYC Big Apps competition, the city issued a call for ideas for apps that would appeal to residents, businesses, and visitors. Winners of the $350 prizes included a color-coded map of city parking rules and an open API to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's transit data.

[Learn how government IT chiefs are trying to meet rising technology demands with still-shrinking budgets. See: State CIOs Eye Consolidation, Cloud, Mobility.]

Post is also commissioner of New York's Department of IT and Telecommunications (DoITT). She said the department has work underway in three broad areas: unlocking government data, IT modernization, and tech-enabled innovation in delivering its services. "Government is not always known for being open and engaged," she said. "We want to dispel that false legacy."

The DoITT manages the Big Apple's 311 information service. Its 311 call center, which operates 24 hours a day, handled 20 million calls last year, while more than 1 million visitors accessed its NYC 311 site, Post said.

Last year, DoITT introduced a text messaging capability for the 311 service, which lets citizens text a question to service representatives and get a text reply. The agency also developed a service-request map that shows the locations of complaints coming in across 15 categories.

New York has begun using the Web for emergency response, as well. Following a December blizzard that dumped two feet of snow on the metropolitan area, and brought criticism to Mayor Bloomberg's administration for its response, the city launched a "Snow Update" Web page to keep the public informed of its snow removal efforts. When Hurricane Irene came up the East Coast in August, the city re-used that platform for emergency planning and communications, Post said.

The city is also modernizing its IT infrastructure. In addition to a data center consolidation effort that's underway, its wireless network, built in 2009, is being used in new ways. For example, half of the city's 950,000 buildings have been equipped with electronic meter readers that use the network to transmit daily readings on water and electricity usage.

The wireless network, which covers 300 square miles, also supports the city's video surveillance cameras and mobile apps used by the New York Police Department.

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