Year in Review: 2018 at the Mayor’s Office of the CTO

2018 was a year of unprecedented growth for our office. Our team delivered on many initiatives that our City can be proud of and that the people that live here can benefit from for years to come. In my time as interim Chief Technology Officer, I am proud to look back on the work the team accomplished and wanted to share the highlights of our last twelve months, including NYCx Moonshot Challenges, Truth in Broadband reporting, privacy legislation, and new global coalitions, as well as touch on what’s ahead for 2019!

2019 will be a big year! I look forward to sharing some exciting updates in the coming weeks and partnering with you to make NYC the fairest and tech-equitable big city in America!

Alby Bocanegra, Interim Chief Technology Officer, City of New York

April 9, 2018: New York City awarded COSMOS Testbed in Harlem by the National Science Foundation (NSF)

New York and Salt Lake City were the first cities to receive funding under the NSF Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) initiative, with New York set to receive $22.5 million.

Led by a consortium of academic, industry and community partners, the platform, called COSMOS, is a proving ground for a new generation of wireless technologies and applications. The COSMOS platform, anchored at Columbia University and City College in Upper Manhattan, will allow researchers and entrepreneurs from around the world to build and test new technologies that address the unique conditions of urban living and advancing a more connected city. The universities are working with public school teachers to develop curriculum for their classrooms that make use of the COSMOS testbed and technologies to teach science, technology, engineering and math. The COSMOS testbed will cover one square mile in West Harlem, with City College to the north, Columbia University’s Morningside Heights campus to the south, the Hudson River to the west, and Apollo Theater to the east.

WHAT’S AHEAD: The consortium will complete the pilot phase of construction and launch the first experiments on the testbed.

April 12, 2018: First-of-its-Kind Report on Broadband Access and Connectivity in New York City Released

Photo by Thomas Kvistholt on Unsplash

The City of New York’s first-ever Truth in Broadband Report empowers New Yorkers with information on the quality of internet service across the city, the availability of service options and the disparities that exist in both access and adoption across neighborhoods and populations.

The Truth in Broadband: Access and Connectivity in New York City Report provides the most complete picture of broadband service yet presented in New York City. The report describes how broadband service stacks up against five principles the City uses to guide its actions and measure broadband service — equity, performance, affordability, choice and privacy. The report also exposes how data limitations and differing definitions of “broadband” pose challenges for assessing broadband access and connectivity in New York City.

WHAT’S AHEAD: The Report will be updated with new findings in mid-2019.

April 26, 2018: Over 100 U.S. Mayors Join Mayor de Blasio to Defend Net Neutrality

Mayors Bill de Blasio, Steven Adler, and Ted Wheeler say net neutrality has become fundamental to the future of democracy. Sara-Michele Lazarus

Mayors Bill de Blasio, Steve Adler (Austin, TX), and Ted Wheeler (Portland, OR) launched the Cities Open Internet Pledge to encourage mayors to take action against the repeal of net neutrality rules. Within a week of the announcement, over 20 cities signed onto the pledge agreeing to only do business with internet and telecommunications service providers that follow strong net neutrality principles.Today, 110 mayors representing over 25 million people have signed on to use their local authority to protect net neutrality.

WHAT’S AHEAD: MOCTO is evaluating ways to monitor broadband performance and add transparency so that all New Yorkers can know they are getting the service they pay for.

May 10, 2018: Inwood Announced as Second NYCx Co-Lab Neighborhood after Brownsville, Brooklyn

After launching a successful NYCx Co-Lab in Brownsville, Brooklyn in 2017, the Co-Lab, with support from the NYCEDC, launched in a second neighborhood:in Inwood/Washington Heights, Manhattan. This community driven, co-development program brings together local residents, non-profit and service providers, educators, and tech companies to help address community identified concerns with cutting-edge smart city technologies and new business models. Once together, the Co-Lab seeks to solve the neighborhood’s self-identified needs using these “innovative solutions.”. The expansion of Co-Labs builds on Inwood NYC, an multi-year neighborhood planning initiative to ensure affordability, modernize antiquated infrastructure, and promote economic development in the Inwood community.

In late July, NYCx announced the Inwood advisory board comprising local leaders, civic entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations dedicated to steering neighborhood-focused technology advancement and education programs in Inwood.

WHAT’S AHEAD: The Co-Lab in Inwood will conduct further outreach to residents, potential local partners and host workshops to identify priority needs and introduce a call for tech and business models solutions to the challenges.

June 7, 2018: Hosted NYCx Accelerator Office Hours event at Northside Festival

The City of New York participated in Northside Festival as part of the Innovation lineup. Northside Innovation welcomes a vibrant community of startup founders, entrepreneurs, designers, journalists, VCs, marketers, and more across three days of keynote talks, interviews, panels, workshops and pitch competitions.

At the Festival, NYCx hosted Accelerator Office Hours for MWBE entrepreneurs — 30 early-stage high-growth potential minority and women tech founders — to meet one-on-one, “speed mentoring” style, with 15 leaders from global and local tech accelerators (E.g., Galvanize, Grand Central Tech, EY, Humble Ventures, Stackpath, R/GA Ventures) who provided strategic insight and business development consultations for startups.

100% of participants met someone they would have not met otherwise and 84% of participants found the Accelerator Office Hours discussions to be useful to their businesses, and resulted in practical next steps helping to foster a diverse, inclusive infrastructure for New York City entrepreneurship.

July 1, 2018: Governor’s Island Connectivity Launched as Result of NYCx Moonshot Challenge

The Trust for Governors Island and the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer announced the launch of free public Wi-Fi on Governors Island over the summer. The service is provided by Fiberless Networks, the winner of the Governors Island Connectivity Challenge, the first citywide ‘NYCx Moonshot Challenge.’

Fiberless Networks’ winning solution brings an important amenity to Governors Island’s growing audience of hundreds of thousands of seasonal visitors, vendors, arts and cultural programming partners and tenants. The technology delivered on Governors Island will serve as a test case for advancing broadband, Wi-Fi and 5G cellular service throughout the City.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Fiberless has completed the first phase of network deployment on Governors Island as part of Phase 2 they will continue to expand to other areas of the Island including the East Development Zone. In partnership with TGI, NYCx will continue to glean feedback and insight from the network which will continue to inform the Office’s/ City’s Broadband Plan

August 13, 2018: Winner of NYCx Climate Action Moonshot Challenge Announced

The second NYCx Moonshot Challenge, dubbed the Climate Action Challenge, called for submissions for the City of New York to test breakthrough technologies for charging electric vehicles. Announced in late 2017, in partnership with MOS, DOT, and DCAS, the challenge called on the tech industry to develop solutions for scaling electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and accelerating the use of EVs citywide. In August, the winner was announced as German electric mobility company, Ubitricity.

Jeremy M. Goldberg, Deputy CTO, NYCx, Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer said, “Ubitricity’s innovative solution could be instrumental in helping the City’s achieve its climate action goal while simplifying the needs of electric vehicle users and future adopters. I’m thrilled that the NYCx Climate Action Challenge surfaced a number of new technologies that have the potential to improve the lives of New Yorkers and future generations.”

WHAT’S AHEAD: Ubitricity’s technology, which will be tested further in New York City over 2019, allows lampposts to be transformed with outlets into electric vehicle charging points that users can connect to with personally-owned smart charging cables that have built-in meters. This technology has the potential to enable the City to deploy curbside vehicle charging more quickly, with lower cost, and with less street clutter than other approaches.

Fall 2018: NYCx Co-Lab Challenge Pilots Begin in Brownsville, Brooklyn

Photo by Reed Young

In March 2017, the NYCx Brownsville Co-Lab program formally kicked off with a series of advisor workshops and community forums aimed at expanding local knowledge of smart city approaches, urban data science, and technology prototyping. The NYCx team facilitated eight workshops for community advisors, each focused on a tech topic. Then two community forums took place where advisors led the community discussion to identify and prioritize top community challenges that tech can help solve. In 2018, the Challenges were brought to life .

The first Challenge, “Zero Waste in Shared Space.” NYCx Co-Labs developed an integrated plan with New York City Sanitation Department (DSNY) and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) for a 6-month test of a technology that increases community engagement of zero waste initiatives in public housing and facilitate onsite processing of food waste into compost. The system was introduced at Brownsville Houses, a NYCHA development with over 1,300 families, on July 12, 2018. New York does not currently have a citywide plan for how to provide organics service at NYCHA so this is a crucial test for the City to be able to deliver on organics in large residential developments. Two community organizations, Mothers on the Move and EcoRich, LLC., are leveraging this pilot towards creating advancement opportunities to NYCHA residents in the green collar economy.

The second Challenge called “Safe & Thriving Nighttime Corridors” sought solutions to increase nighttime activity in community corridors in Brownsville. NYCx Co-Labs developed an integrated for a 6-month pilot of an intelligent pedestrian lighting solution and a solution for digital activation of public spaces from proposals by Ville-luminate the Block, a Brownsville-based partnership, and Anyways Here’s the Thing, a Brooklyn-based design studio.

WHAT’S AHEAD: The pilots will activate in mid to early 2019 in Osborn Plaza and the Belmont Ave corridor in Brownsville. This is a crucial test for the City in terms of ‘nighttime design’ of public spaces throughout the City, especially where neighborhood safety issues are highest.

September 12, 2018: Introducing Bill Intro. 1101 to New York City Council

City Council Intro. 1101 to City Council, introduced at the request of the Mayor, would establish the strongest privacy protections for cable broadband subscribers of any big city in the country.

The proposed legislation would require cable providers to obtain consent from customers before they collect, use, or disclose personally identifiable information, ensure that privacy policies are available in languages other than English and accessible to individuals with disabilities, and give consumers the right to access and correct the data collected on them. Currently, internet service providers can track and sell user data without any notice or consent. The bill would also prohibit cable providers from refusing service, or penalizing, financially or otherwise, customers who do not consent. The bill would further mandate regular reporting, and provide mechanisms for customers and the City to hold companies accountable for violations. A companion bill, Int. 1102, would add further consumer protections and strengthen DOITT’s oversight of cable franchisees.

WHAT’S AHEAD: If passed into law, the bill would be a first step toward protecting New Yorkers from a pervasive and exploitative business practice that makes them choose between having privacy and using the internet.

September 19, 2018: Launched the Moonshot Launchpad in partnership with Cornell Tech

In partnership with Cornell Tech, we released the NYCx Moonshot Launchpad: a free, downloadable how-to guide that city agencies, community organizations, and industry partners around the world can use to define issues in the public realm that can be addressed through Moonshot challenges.

The NYCx Moonshot is a challenge that invites global problem-solvers to partner with the City to develop and test novel solutions that can address pressing urban problems with the goal of improving lives. After two successful NYCx Moonshot Challenges, the Moonshot Launchpad is the first-of-its-kind guide that provides insight into the NYCx methodology for selecting, defining, and drafting Moonshot challenges.

October 15–22, 2018: New York City hosts Library Privacy Week

Photo by Ryan DeBerardinis

The City created the first-ever Library Privacy Week 2018, a week-long celebration of libraries and their unique role in providing patrons with crucial information about protecting their digital privacy. Through the week of October 15th, the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, Queens Public Library and Metropolitan New York Library Council hosted over 30 data privacy workshops throughout all five boroughs that were free and open to the public. These workshops covered topics ranging from utilizing digital privacy tools to leveraging art to interrogate emerging issues of digital privacy.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Due to the success of this inaugural event, we are committed to making this annual program to help all New Yorkers keep pace with digital privacy issues and cybersecurity measures.

Fall 2018: Stronger NYC Communities — Protecting Immigrant Communities Online (And Off)

Photo by Mozilla Foundation

Our office partnered with the Mozilla Foundation, Research Action Design, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to pilot Stronger NYC Communities, an initiative to provide immigrant-serving organizations with strategies and skills to increase their digital security capacity. The curriculum is now freely available for activists and technologists who work with vulnerable populations across the United States.

WHAT’S AHEAD: We are working with the Mayor’s Fund to launch a training program in this upcoming year to include up to 50 additional organizations.

November 1, 2018: NYCx Launches Cybersecurity Moonshot Challenge

Photo by Alexandre Godreau, Unsplash

NYCx launched its third Moonshot Challenge to tackle the following question: How might we make every small and midsize business in New York City and beyond as resilient to cybersecurity attacks as a Fortune 500 company? In partnership with Cyber Command, NYCEDC and a consortium of international partners, the NYCx Cybersecurity Moonshot Challenge aims to incentivize cyber organizations and startups to develop, test, and build cybersecurity solutions targeted for the small business owners are affordable, effective, and easy-to-use.

The City of New York is partnering with Israel’s leading venture capital firm, Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), and global partners from Israel, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Berlin, Helsinki, London, and Paris. These partners will work with the City to solicit and evaluate proposals from companies and startups that can secure small and midsize businesses from cyber attacks. Additionally, the Global Cyber Alliance is partnering on the challenge to increase awareness among interested startups and will seek to incorporate Challenge learnings into its ongoing support for small businesses.

NYCx Challenge participants can submit concepts online here with the first-round closing in early February 2019.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Finalists will be announced in early 2019 and will test their proposals with one winning solution selected with a 6-month pilot to launch before the end of the year.

November 14, 2018: Launch of Global Cities Coalition To Protect Digital Rights

Amsterdam, Barcelona and New York City formally launched the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, a joint initiative to promote and track progress in protecting residents’ and visitors’ digital rights. The Coalition will create policies, tools and resources to help advance this effort in alignment with the Charter for Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, established within the framework of the UN’s Internet Governance Forum around five core shared principles. The Coalition marks the first time that cities have come together to protect digital rights on a global level.

“We serve 8.5 million people with the unique and challenging needs of a diverse population that makes New York City one of the most resilient in the world,” said Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin, City of New York. “Protecting human rights in a digital world is essential to global unity and our ability to serve all people fairly and equally.”

Since the launch, other national and international cities are joining the Coalition including Portland, Oregon, and Kansas City, Missouri.

WHAT’S AHEAD: 2019 will be a big year for Digital Rights around the world. We’re excited for cities to lead the way. We will work with our partner cities around the world to address each of the core principles with tangible outcomes.