Hacking Cities for a Better, Sustainable Future

Notes from SXSW session moderated by Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine Sr Editor. Panel included Rachel Haot, Chief Digital Officer for NYC, Erika Diamond, Recyclebank VP and Abhi Nemani of Code for America.

Mayor Bloomberg wants to work with the NYC public to help realize NYC’s full digital potential. Step 1 was to assess the situation and create a digital roadmap. Rachel Haot heading up new Digital office.

Rachel’s stakeholder questions during her assessment:
1. What is your goal as an agency? Not what is your goal online. Sometimes she researched their agencies audiences online consumption habits to see if digital was a channel option.
2. What are you trying to achieve in tech and what have you done that you are proud of that you wish more people knew?
3. What’s getting in your way so I can help?

The NYC Digital Roadmap has projects that fall into five areas: access to internet, technology education, open government, engagement, and industry

Recent project examples:
1. Encouraging tech startups through wearemadeinny.com program
2. During Hurricane Sandy, the office applied what they learned during Hurricane Irene and was able to incorporate social media into their strategy for dispersing information. They now also have an emergency protocol for social media in situations like Sandy and Winter Storm Nemo to help streamline the process for sending out content from different city agencies. This content is now kept up to date.
3. Redesigning Pay Phones for the Digital Age http://www.wnyc.org/shows/newtechcity/blogs/new-tech-city-blog/2013/mar/05/redesigning-nycs-11412-payphones-digital-age/
4. Use hackethons to crack large problems. This can provide small successes that stimulate further efforts.

Hackethon (codethon) approach:
1. Look at dev.twitter.com for example of a good Dev community.
2. Get the data out there and then provide clear outcomes and guidelines.
3. The relationships you develop in a hackethon is the best value.
4. To sell hackethon, give success examples.

Other ideas:
1. Use engagement and rewards programs like Recyclebank to help citizens change behaviors.
2. Adopt a tree/adopt a hydrant where citizens sign up to care for a city tree or hydrant is one example of how apps can take a basic “we the people” philosophy and create positive action.

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