New York mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a set of reforms and initiatives his office will pursue to help make New York “the most technology-friendly and innovation-driven city in the world.”
Mayor de Blasio emphasized four key priorities in a speech Monday during the opening session of the city’s annual Internet Week. The initiatives include attracting and growing tech talent locally; ensuring universal, high-speed, affordable broadband access for all New Yorkers and New York City businesses; supporting government innovation; and digital engagement in government.
“Technology is critical to New York’s place as a 21st Century city. Not just because tech brings lots of investment and jobs — but because successful cities have always thrived on the disruption new technology brings,” said de Blasio in what is his first major speech on technology since taking office in January. “New York kept its position as global leader by moving forward with technological and economic advances, and this administration is committed to doing everything to expand our talent pool and develop our innovation economy.”
New York City’s tech ecosystem provides 291,000 jobs and contributes $30 billion in wages annually to the city’s economy.
The speech comes just a short time after de Blasio named New York State technology veteran Anne Roest as commissioner of the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication, after the position remained vacant for more than four months.
There also have been reports de Blasio intends to hire another technology expert to a position similar to that of Rachel Haot, who served as New York’s chief digital officer under former mayor Michael Bloomberg.
According to the mayor’s office, these are some of the reforms and initiatives proposed by de Blasio:
Key initiatives announced include:
Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force: The task force is a unifying body that will make overall policy to connect all New Yorkers to quality jobs, including but not limited to the tech industry. With names of its members to be announced tomorrow, the task force is composed of industry leaders from tech, education and advocates for low-income New Yorkers. This task force will be charged with fundamentally shifting our workforce development programs so that the city government facilitates more nimble and responsive workforce training and forges real pipelines to the fastest-growing, good-paying sectors — like tech.
Tech Talent Pipeline: Mayor de Blasio today announced the launch of a tech talent pipeline to support the growth of the tech sector and train New Yorkers to be tech companies’ premier hiring choice. Building on existing relationship with the City University of New York and the Education Department, and the Department of Small Business Services, the Tech Talent Pipeline will combine city, state, federal and private funding to reach a budget of approximately $10 million, distributed across three years, to recruit and train New Yorkers; design new curricula to meet employer need; and engage employers in building the talent pipeline. This collaboration will be supported by several philanthropic partners, including JP Morgan Chase, the inaugural funder, and the NY Community Trust and the NYC Workforce Funders, which are committing to future funding.
Tech Education Investments: Mayor de Blasio further reiterated his commitment to investing in transformative, 21st Century education for every child in New York City, building on the success of national models for cutting-edge tech education like P-TECH and the Academy of Software Engineering. Additionally, the city will invest in new early college and career schools — including three new grade 9-14 schools opening this fall.
Beyond high school, the de Blasio administration has committed $20 million in fiscal year 2015 — growing to $50 million in the years ahead — to expand programs to help thousands of CUNY community college students earn their STEM degrees faster with additional tuition support, counseling and tutoring.
To support tech growth in the outer boroughs, the mayor also revealed his administration is exploring new place-based strategies, in addition to working with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the Coalition for Queens to launch the Queens Tech Strategic Plan.
Mayor de Blasio today stressed that an essential part of expanding economic opportunity for every New Yorker and creating a more inclusive city where everyone can succeed involves ensuring universal, affordable, high-speed Internet access for all New Yorkers and New York businesses. More than one-third of New York households do not have access to highest-speed broadband, as of December 2012. Today, access to the Internet is not a luxury — it is the common currency of the modern world. As such, the de Blasio administration is building one of the largest free public Wi-Fi networks in the world by:
Transforming Aging Payphones into Modern Information Hubs and Free Wi-Fi Hotspots: Earlier this month, the city issued a request for proposals for the creation of a robust, five-borough network of up to 10,000 Internet hotspots. By replacing the aging network of public pay telephones with state-of-the-art public connection points, the de Blasio administration aims to transform the physical streetscape — and New Yorkers’ access to information.
Expanding Free Outdoor Wi-Fi in Harlem: In Harlem, the city has partnered with the Fuhrman Family Foundation to build the largest continuous free outdoor public wireless network in the nation. The Harlem Wi-Fi network — scheduled for completion this summer — will extend 95 city blocks, from 110th to 138th Streets between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Madison Avenue, reaching approximately 80,000 New Yorkers.
Boosting Broadband Access For All New Yorkers: To ensure all New Yorkers living in public housing have broadband access, New York City Housing Authority and the New York City Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications will work to ensure the seven computer centers in NYCHA housing that do not have broadband access obtain it. To create additional opportunities for residents to get online, the city is also working to expand the digital van that NYCHA sends to its housing developments.
Bolstering the Support Network in the City’s Public Library System for Low-Income Students: The city is working with the public library system on a pilot program to lend mi-fi wireless devices and Wi-Fi subscriptions to low-income students in library after-school programs. This program is the first of its kind in the nation and has already drawn attention from the Federal Communications Commission. The city is actively working to make this democratizing public program a reality through public-private partnerships.
As part of his plan to make New York City a more open and forward-thinking global innovation hub for the 21st Century, Mayor de Blasio also detailed his administration’s efforts to modernize the city’s technology infrastructure and fundamentally transform the way government operates with relation to technology. This includes promoting a more user-oriented approach in government and harnessing the power of data collection and analysis to address pressing challenges facing the city.
Leveraging the Power of Open Data: Already, the city is leveraging the power of open data to make streets safer and eliminate traffic fatalities through the BigApps competition. Using long sought after, newly-released NYPD crash data, Mayor de Blasio’s Big Idea challenge is to help eliminate traffic fatalities in New York City as a part of Vision Zero.
Expanding the Diversity of Local Tech Firms: Mayor de Blasio emphasized the city government’s commitment to increasing the number and diversity of New York City tech firms that do business with the city by restructuring the RFP and emphasizing local hiring and economic impact. Additionally, Mayor de Blasio announced that the city government is working to streamline procurement processes to make it easier for small firms to big on city contracts.
Partnering with Local Tech Firms to Implement UPK: Furthermore, as the de Blasio administration continues to roll out universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds in New York City, it is partnering with local tech firms like Control Group to strengthen outreach to families in traditionally underserved communities. Tech for UPK includes a diverse and growing group of leaders for New York City’s technology, design and academic community who have committed to provide pro-bono services and assistance to strengthen the implementation and contribute to long-term success of universal pre-K in New York City.
Launching NYC’s Top-Level Domain: Later this year, the city will formally launch the .nyc web address, making the City of New York the first in the country with a top-level domain. This will bring new opportunities to support local businesses, organizations and residents.