AlleyFridays is a speaker series held at Alley NYC designed by the startup community including groups like NYCApps to equip startups and small businesses with tactical skills and food for thought. Last Friday, Rachel Stern Haot, Chief Digital Officer of New York City came and talked about the city’s digital roadmap, startup incentive programs, and public private partnerships with various tech companies.
Some of the city’s digital initiatives include: wifi in city parks, cell service in subways, Verizon FiOS expansion, community technology centers, and open API for developers to build apps and tools to better serve New Yorkers’ everyday lives. Rachel said the city government is already at 90% completion of the digital roadmap since starting in 2011 and will reach completion by the end of the administration.
Sam Hysell from the Lean Startup Machine asked Rachel as the first Chief Digital Officer of any city, who she looks for inspiration. Rachel named John Tolva, the CTO of Chicago, Jane Snowdon, IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer and attendees of the Digital Cities Summit where technology leaders came together to share best practices and ideas to create better cities. Rachel mentioned following New York’s footsteps, Rio, Vancouver, and Baltimore now also have Chief Digital Officers.
When it comes to the city government’s efforts to engage smaller companies, Rachel said the nature of RFPs are written to reduce risk for the city. The same rules to ensure companies will still be around in 10 years are also rules that can exclude smaller companies. As a result, when they had an open RFP to rebuild NYC.gov website, they rewrote those rules so that 3 years establishment was the new minimum for engaging a business, which opened opportunities to much younger and smaller companies.
Aside from attracting developers, the city also plans on engaging more designers and media professionals in arts and entertainment. Rachel talked about the Made in NY Media Center, which will be located in DUMBO, Brooklyn to promote collaboration between entertainment, advertising and new media industries. The Media Center will provide co-working spaces, media-maker workshops, a transmedia incubator, and will house the Digital Agency Academy, a think tank that helps solve real-world brand marketing challenges.
Finally, Rachel did a call to action for the city’s Summer youth employment programs for students 16 – 22 years old. The city currently has funding for 30K jobs in various industries: hospitals, summer camps, law firms, museums, etc., and would like to get more tech companies to open jobs and internships. Give back to the community through internships.