Yesterday, in a video presentation, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT) Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrave demonstrated the city's online 311 service request tracking and business licensing capabilities.

"If you call 311, you'll be given a service request number," said Bloomberg, "which you can track on ... Here's the home page, you simply click on the 311 icon on the right hand side, type in your service request number, and as an added security measure, you will also be asked to type in the numbers that appear in this box, and now he can see the followup. For example, many New Yorkers call 311 after they realize they left something in the back of a cab ... a situation that can cause panic, and the last thing you want to do is start rifling through your phone book searching for the right agency to call. All you've got to do is call 311, and in this case, the 311 operator was able to direct the person to the garage, and save them a call to the Taxi and Limousine Commission."

Cosgrave said that Bloomberg asked DOITT to develop a 311 system in 1993, and now nearly five years later almost 60 million calls have been handled by the system. "311 has become a cornerstone of [Mayor Bloomberg's] vision," said Cosgrave, "making New York's government more consumer-focused more accessible, more transparent and more accountable. 311 is New York City. 311 stands for customer service, and for making it easier for people to interact with the city. As we increasingly expand 311 services to the Internet, as we're doing today, we continue to improve customer access to make it easier for New Yorkers to do business with or obtain services from the city. In fact 311 has become so popular that people have started -- whenever they want to interact with the city -- saying 'just 311 it.'

"In addition to what we're introducing today," said Cosgrave, "in the next few weeks, the mayor has already announced, we'll be able to put pictures and videos into 911, 311 and This will begin next month. Customers will not only be able to check service requests on the Web, as Mayor Bloomberg has demonstrated, but it will allow people to actually grade their service requests on the Web. And we are going to allow customers to initiate their licenses on the Web, not just renew them."

Wayne Hanson  |  Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government