In a chilly, temperature-controlled auditorium at Time Warner headquarters, insulated from steam gathering outside, the top representatives of the New York City’s efforts to make good on that Road Map to a Digital City gathered to discuss the recently-released plans. How often do Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne, NYC EDC President Seth Pinsky, and DoITT Commissioner Carole Post really get together—when not on stage to demonstrate city’s newly-streamlined approach to tech? Actually, all the time, assured Ms. Post.
In a nod to Sterne’s emphasis on social media as the first steps in digitizing New York, Twitter’s Adam Sharp, who was just celebrating his “halfaversary” as manager of government and political partnerships, was also on stage. The conversation naturally dovetailed into other Internet Week memes, like the suddenly-ubiquitous “Made in NYC” label.
It first came up with questions from the audience about ICANN’s expected approval of the top-level .nyc domain name. Ms. Post said although the approval was delayed, the city had done considerable preparation and “we feel like we’re very uniquely positioned to capitalize on the NYC cache.” Mr. Pinsky clarified how this could benefit local startups:
We think that there’s a huge opportunity to allow locally-based companies to brand themselves and associate themselves with New York, which I think helps the companies but also helps New York as a center of creativity and innovation, which is really what our long term goal is. Not just to make New York a center of innovation, but to make sure the world understands that New York is a center of innovation.
The Made in NYC nomenclature came up again in a press release Betabeat was handed before the talk, announcing the NYC App Hub on NYC.gov. (How your average citizen could possibly keep track of or even know these efforts exist was a recurring theme of the panel. And the answer circled back to both social media and the city’s 300,000 employees wide reach.)
The mini, local app store collects all the “city-created” smartphone apps in one place, including Big Apps competition winners like this year’s Roadify. The panel’s moderator, Fortune‘s Jessi Hempel, had never heard of Roadify, or Big Apps, before the panel. But she seemed eager to snatch it up, before telling Mr. Sharp, “Then again, that’s what I use Twitter for every morning,” to find out if she should take the F or B train.
Betabeat jumped at the chance to get in the last question of the morning, and of course we wanted to confirm our tip that a big carrier is bringing free wifi to major city parks this week. Ms. Sterne, looking modelesque in a silk minidress, toned down by a demure gray blazer and nude kitten heels, didn’t want to comment beyond the report, but acknowledged:
We support [private-public partnerships for wifi] because it’s a really a great example of when interests are aligned. And of course when something’s at no or very little cost to taxpayers, that’s the ideal scenario. We have examples in Bryant Park and Madison Square Park and we look forward to expanding on that.
Ms. Post cited last year’s announcement that Cablevision and Time Warner will be funding and providing wifi in about 35 city parks, selected by elected officials and community boards.
The notion is to be a companion to where wifi is already provided in commercially viable areas, but to use these avenues to bring this service to areas that might not otherwise attract a commercially-viable partnerships. None of these agreements are exclusive to anything else, so we’re really excited to be able to have a sort of a toolkit of options to choose from.
Without the definitive confirmation we were hoping for, Betabeat picked up a silver stressball from the table (now absent the breakfast buffet) on our way out. Emblazoned on one side of the silver ball was the NYC Digital logo, on the other, the word amaze. “It’s an amazeball!” said Betabeat’s resident webutante when we gifted her the swag. We still up in the air whether it’s a mark against us that we didn’t get the joke ourselves.