Multiple New York City agencies plan to deploy projects that will integrate modern technology into everyday services. They vary in size and scope, but as a whole, they indicate that technology is a large part of the local government’s growth and improvement efforts.
Though all of the projects bring potential benefits to citizens’ lives, some have evoked concerns.
- Retrofitting Payphones with Wi-Fi: Google’s one of many vendors interested in the Department of Information Technology’s proposal to retrofit municipal payphones into free Wi-Fi hot spots. The plan would convert payphones — virtually obsolete in the age of the smartphone — into access hubs for citizens and their mobile devices. The payphones themselves will offer 911 and 311 access, and other services and features provided would depend on the vendor awarded the contract. Google, for example, would have yet another avenue for its user and ad services to reach potential consumers. Some city leaders have reservations about relying on one vendor to provide the service, however, including Public Advocate Leticia James, who told amNewYork that such a situation would leave New York City in the lurch if a lone vendor’s service delivery somehow went down and temporarily jeopardized the payphones’ functionality.
- Municipal ID cards: The NYC Technology Development Corp. has hired Gartner to outline the development of the city’s municipal ID card program. The program will require the city to store applicants’ personal data for up to two years. Some New Yorkers feel that city ID cards will give undocumented immigrants a way to prove their identity, but the New York Civil Liberties Union worries that the personal data storage will leave the immigrants vulnerable to unnecessary tracking and investigation from police and immigration officials.
- RISE:NYC Competition: Superstorm Sandy’s devastation has prompted the Economic Development Corp. to create the RISE: NYC competition to attract applicants with tech-minded solutions for disaster preparedness. Finalist projects include a self-inflating sandbag and smartphone attachments that allow short-range wireless peer-to-peer communication. Up to $30 million is available to fund projects that could make the community more resilient in crises. RISE: NYC will hold a demo night on Oct. 7, 2014 where patrons can view the finalists’ technology. The organization will factor in public feedback to help decide winners.
- Education upgrade: City Councilman James Vacca secured $96,000 for Bronx Delta Schools’ infrastructure upgrade, which will include purchasing interactive SMART tables. The machines resemble giant iPads and will be loaded with educational multimedia activities. A district Web page contains a link to a Teq’s SMART table Web page, which means that company is the likely vendor.
The projects’ journey to eventual success or failure will continue under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s leadership. De Blasio has inherited endeavors that began during predecessor Mike Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor, but at least one project, the municipal ID card project, began after de Blasio took office, which means its fate may be intertwined with his legacy as New York’s top leader.