February 22, 2013

New York City Calls in the Code Corps

Isaac Lopez

New York City is leveling up their data analytics powers announced Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his State of the City address last week.

In the address, Bloomberg said that the city will be launching a new platform aimed at improving the way all NYC agencies share information.

To manage this effort, the city will be appointing its first ever Chief Analytics Officer, Michael Flowers, who had previously led the city’s policy and strategic planning analytics team. Bloomberg made it a point to note that as part of his oversight of the city’s data analytics programs, Flowers will be tasked with making as much data as is possible available to the public for purposes of accountability.

Highlighting a key piece of his new data platform, Bloomberg announced that the city would be enlisting the services of a “Code Corps” to join the city in tackling data projects that can improve public services. According to the NYC.gov website, the Code Corps will be “the nation’s first municipal program that engages vetted volunteer technologists to realize lifesaving City government initiatives with an emphasis on emergency and disaster recovery needs.”

The Code Corps will include nonprofit and private sector organizations such as 10gen, Codecademy, Columbia Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering, Cornell Tech, Facebook, New York University Department of Computer Science, NYU-Poly Entrepreneurship and Innovation Association, Twitter NY, and others.

Providing arms for this “Code Corps,” the city last year passed landmark “open data” legislation aimed at standardizing and opening all of the City’s data by 2018. Today, anyone can visit the NYC Open Data web site and view over 1,500 government-produced, machine-readable data sets (exactly 1,643 at the date this article was published).

“Anyone can use these data sets to participate in and improve government by conducting research and analysis or creating applications, thereby gaining a better understanding of the services provided by City agencies and improving the lives of citizens and the way in which government serves them,” writes the NYC Open Data organization.

While the organization of a Code Corps may be an innovation unique to New York, similar efforts to democratize city data are already underway in other parts of the country. Some examples include:

  • The City of Chicago now offers a data portal with over 900 data sets, and has its own GitHub site for sharing code and collaborating with others.
  • The City of Boston recently launched their own data portal, which currently hosts nearly 200 data sets, including such items as the Mayor’s 24 Hour Hotline, Crime, Building permits, etc.
  • Philadelphia hosts a portal called OpenDataPhilly which provides access to almost 200 data sets, applications, and APIs related to the Philadelphia region.
  • Seattle offers a data portal with over 800 data sets that can be ranked by popularity or type.

 

Related Articles:

Big Data Cloud Combo Boosts Government 

eScience and a Tale of Two Cities 

Helping the Government Survive the Data Tsunami