02/07/2013 05:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

New York City Forges Ahead Digitally: 2012 in Review

New York City's digital future is brighter than ever, thanks to landmark advances over the past year in Internet access, education, open data, engagement and technology industry growth. NYC Digital would like to thank the countless agents for innovation across our city -- from private sector to public, nonprofit to corporation, hacker to novice -- who helped to make 2012 a year of phenomenal achievement for the technology community.

A testament to the Bloomberg administration's commitment to technology and innovation, together we have realized over 80 percent of the goals laid out in Mayor Bloomberg's Digital Roadmap, the plan to embrace New York City's potential. Below, a look at what we were able to accomplish together in the world's fastest growing digital hub.


In 2012, New York City provided more ways to connect to the Internet than ever before. The City's grants from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, or BTOP, have connected more than 300,000 New Yorkers, primarily those with greatest need and lowest Internet adoption rates, including low-income households, at-risk students and seniors. The multi-million dollar federal grant helped fund upgrades in schools, libraries, recreation centers and computer labs in public housing facilities. The New York City Housing Authority launched its novel Digital Vans program, mobile units equipped with Internet access and computer workstations that travel to different housing facilities every day. Across the five boroughs, we witnessed innovative new uses of older infrastructure to bring more people online, including WiFi hot spots provided at payphone kiosks in a new pilot program.

The City's partnership with AT&T to provide free WiFi in 20 public parks entered its second year, with planning underway for a further 32 parks via partnerships with Time Warner Cable and Cablevision. To support the infrastructure needs of New York City businesses, Deputy Mayor Robert Steel unveiled an exciting slate of new broadband initiatives, including ConnectNYC, a competition to provide free fiber connectivity for up to 100 small businesses and an investment of up to $7M led by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Deputy Mayor Steel also announced a commercial real estate grading system for broadband and a crowd-sourced map to visually show wired buildings and neighborhoods citywide.


From high school to post-graduate study, education achievements in 2012 made New York City better equipped to prepare its students for their future. The game-changing Applied Sciences NYC initiative moved forward in 2012, building on the launch of Cornell Tech with the announcement of the NYU-Poly Center for Urban Science and Policy (CUSP) and the Columbia University Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering. The City also unveiled a new public high school to teach coding in addition to core curriculum: the Academy for Software Engineering opened its doors to hundreds of students in September 2012. At AFSE, in addition to learning the basics, students have an opportunity to learn firsthand from local technology companies, and leaders in the digital industry including Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures), Serkan Piantino (Facebook) and Evan Korth (HackNY, NYU) serve on the school's advisory board. In the fall of 2012, Google CEO Larry Page joined Mayor Bloomberg to announce that Google would provide Cornell and Technion with cost-free space to teach its first students, and Cornell Tech kicked off the new year with a bang, welcoming its first students to the Google space in early 2013.

Open Government

The international leader in open data, the City passed NYC Local Law 11 of 2012, a plan to open all of the City's data by 2018, and added a record number of data sets to its API-enabled Socrata OpenData platform, for a current total of over 1,300 data sets. After holding the nation's first municipally-hosted hackathon in August 2011, the City of New York hosted its first sustainability-themed hackathon in July 2012, Reinvent Green, led by PlaNYC and made possible by partners NYU-Poly and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. The hackathon, held at no cost to tax payers, featured over 100 developers, designers, tech partners and City government policy experts. Together they developed thirteen apps in just two days, and the City continues to explore how it can partner with these innovative solutions. The City also launched the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, focused on imagining new uses of the City's aging telecommunications infrastructure, and setting a global standard for the future of urban design and connectivity. Today over 600 respondents have expressed interest in the challenge, and 15 finalists will demonstrate their work in March.

During Hurricane Sandy, open data helped keep New Yorker safe, thanks to powerful partnerships with technology leaders including Google, WNYC and The New York Times, as all three organizations developed interactive hurricane evacuation zone maps using shared City data. These maps enabled more New Yorkers to find out if they were in an evacuation zone and in danger, and based on visitor metrics, the City of New York was able to reach over 1,000 percent more people through these tools.


Over the course of 2012, the digital reach of the City of New York increased by more than two million -- to a record reach of over six million people a month. The City of New York continues to communicate digitally with more people than any other city in the world, and at no time was the importance of this engagement more apparent than during the events of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Faced with limited connectivity, social media became an information lifeline for millions, providing up-to-the-minute alerts and life-saving updates. City agencies sent over 2,000 tweets during the storm and immediately afterwards, and the City's @nycmayorsoffice twitter handle nearly doubled its follower count, increasing by 50,000 followers in one weekend. Social media partners including Twitter also stepped up to help get the word out, donating $5,000 in promoted tweets to the City of New York.

The City of New York also launched its "one-stop shop" social media channels under the umbrella name of NYC Gov on Facebook, Foursquare, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube. These channels already have over 100,000 subscribers and help to highlight need-to-know alerts and news from City government.

Building on the valuable input from the Reinvent hackathon, the City of New York issued a forward-leaning request for proposals to design the future, and received 17 responses from interactive firms. The responses were graded, proposals analyzed, and the contract was awarded to DUMBO-based HUGE Inc., the leader among candidates. HUGE Inc. is currently developing the website based on user feedback, data analysis and City government expertise, with a goal to launch a new website for in 2013 that sets the global standard for digital government engagement.

The Social Media Advisory and Research Taskforce, or SMART, welcomed new members at the New York City Police Department and New York City Fire Department to the council in 2012, contributing their skill and expertise to the City's digital policies and plans. To further serve City agencies, NYC Digital hosted its second annual Engage NYC social media summit at Google's New York City office, featuring panel discussions on strategy and presentations from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google. Over 200 city employees attended and the entire event was at no cost to agencies or taxpayers thanks to donations.


New York City's technology industry continued its powerful expansion in 2012, and its leaders helped serve New Yorkers through new partnerships to support education, professional development and small business growth across the five boroughs. Mayor Bloomberg illustrated the City's support for innovation with visits to tech start-ups including Boxee, Efficiency 2.0, Seamless, Shapeways, Warby Parker and more, and the City of New York celebrated its technology and innovation community at NYC Connects, a dynamic reception at Gracie Mansion showcasing top innovations. To invest in the future of the evolving media and entertainment sector, Commissioner Katherine Oliver announced that the City would develop the Made in NY Media Center in DUMBO in partnership with the Independent Filmmakers Project, providing training, courses, coworking space and an event venue to the creative community.

The vibrant footprint of New York City's tech sector was demonstrated digitally when Mayor Bloomberg unveiled the Made in NY digital map at the fifth annual Internet Week NY in May 2012. The map highlights the location of companies hiring for digital jobs across the five boroughs, allows users to learn about neighborhoods, links directly to job listings and enables any tech company to add itself to the map. The map was visited over 100,000 times in 2012, and features more than 1,000 companies currently hiring, and the reasons why they love New York City.

Finally, technology community gave back in crucial ways in 2012. Following a Youth Employment Symposium that exposed startups to City programs serving youth, several technology companies participated in the Ladders for Leaders program, enabling exceptional students from low-income households to secure paying summer jobs in some of New York's fastest growing tech companies. In addition, technology partners at Mashable, Tumblr and Weebly helped developed the Digital Toolkit for Small Businesses, including free videos, curriculum and courses that help small businesses to launch and grow online, administered by the Department of Small Business Services.

We look forward to realizing the City's digital roadmap in 2013, and are grateful for the innovative leadership of Mayor Bloomberg, and the incredible contributions of New York City's vibrant technology community.