2017 and its civic tech / open data challenges.

(This is a summary of the challenges we see in New York City. To see 2016’s year in review, visit our blog at Beta.NYC.)

2017 will be a challenging year.

Our core values are rooted in the four universal freedoms and BetaNYC’s four digital freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom to connect, freedom of learn, freedom to innovate, and freedom to collaborate. We believe that a smart and wise city is built by empowering people to work together, to pursue opportunity, and to make the city a better place to live and work. As neighbors, we stand in solidarity; today, tomorrow, and forever.

We see the next four years as a challenge. As a community, we will continue to fight for equality, opportunity, and we will defend our neighbors. BetaNYC’s leadership is committed to making New York City a diverse, inclusive city where all are welcome. We will continue to use our voice and programing to build a positive and inclusive future. For the next four years, we will continue to push our members to work in government, support community based organizations, serve on Community Boards, and we hope to have a few members become City Council members.

2017 will bring our city a municipal election that promises to change our City Council’s leadership and may change our citywide leadership — Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller.

Through the year, we will work with our community to develop a survey that provokes those who are running for office to think about civic technology, data, and design. Additionally, we want to partner with community based organizations and host townhalls to update our People’s Roadmap.

This new year will bring about some organizational challenges. For BetaNYC to grow it needs to develop a full-time staff and sustained review stream. We need to find partners who will help us fundraise, grow our programing, and deepen our impact. Our ability to run as a completely volunteer organization has reached its capacity.

In March, we will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the City’s open data law and we will build an event that transcends the traditional notion of a technology or data conference. On Saturday, 4 March 2017 we will host NYC School of Data conference! We will focus this day on taking control of the data that is powering our lives and our city.

Additionally, we see a slate of improvements that could revolutionize our city.

First, we want to see greater investment in Community Boards. We see an explicit need for improved Community Board tools and capacity. On top of translating our Civic Innovation Fellows’ insights into actionable tools, we see a need for younger, digitally savvy people to join Community Boards.

For our 2017–2018 Civic Innovation Fellowship program, we want to hire several mid-career technologists to help develop tools and solutions that will increase Community Board capacity.

Also, we see a need for younger and mid-career digital natives to work within government. Over the next two years, we want to broaden our Civic Innovation Fellows to all five boroughs. We want to diversify our talent pool to recruit mid-career designers and technologists to work on the City’s most pressing policy issues.

We want our City government build a design and technology agency, similar to 18F, that “partners with agencies to approach technology projects in new ways. We help agencies improve processes and deliver efficient, easy-to-use digital services to the public.”

We also want to grow our civic technology and open data trainings to be imbued within our High Schools and data science bootcamp trainings.

NYC’s open data law will hit its most important milestone in 2018. By the end of 2018, the City should have uploaded all of its existing data to its data portal. With some agencies continuing to resist this law, we must be thinking of new ways to ensure the open data law is enacted.

This means we need to be thinking about the future of New York City’s open data program and ensure it sustainability. From the creation of a more robust Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics to the creation of a Mayor’s Office of Data and Analytics, we need to flush out the next step in NYC’s data sustainability. We have one year to make this real!

Not only is it pressing to ensure that data collection is improved, we need to ensure that some data is destroyed. We also want to ensure that New York City leads the way in ethical algorithmic government. We want transparency around data tools, algorithms, artificial intelligence, and tracking. We want New York City to be the thought leader in smart, ethical, algorithmic government.

We are huge fans of municipal internet and big data, but not at the expense of privacy. We want to develop programming to explore issues around privacy, security and other risks associated with big data and the internet of things.

Things you can do!

  1. Donate to BetaNYC. Honestly, we need about $200,000 to make it into next year. We have a super lean team, two full time staffers, two part time staffers (our Civic Innovation Mentors), and a volunteer leadership team. We really need your help to continue our work.
  2. Save Saturday, 4 March for NYC School of Data 2017! Join our newsletter and be the first to know about all of our events.
  3. Learn more about NYC’s civic technology and open data ecosystem. In February, we will publish the first “New York City open data manual!” In the meantime, subscribe to our YouTube channel, watch our Civic Innovation Fellows videos, and follow along with the lab embedded within the videos.