NYS Assembly Hearing on Information Revolution Postponed

The hearing may have been postponed, but the Information Revolution just keeps getting bigger and faster.

Reinvent Albany was informed by the State Assembly that the November 18th hearing on NYS government and the information revolution has been postponed until January or February.  We hope this innovative hearing is indeed postponed and not cancelled.  The hearing raised excellent questions about how New York State, or any government, is taking advantage of technology changes which have made it much cheaper and easier to put information online, build websites and other technology tools, and get information, literally, into the hands of the public.

We look forward to the hearing happening sometime early next year. In the meantime, our thanks  to Assemblymember Andy Hevesi, Chair of the Committee on Oversight and his colleagues Steve Englebright, Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, and George Latimer, Chair of the Legislative Committee on Government Administration. We appreciate their work getting this hearing process underway and lining up an impressive array of experts.  We look forward to working with them as they take on one of the biggest questions of our time: using Information Technology to transform government.


NYS Assembly Hearing on the “Information Revolution”

Hats off to Queens Assembly member Andy Hevesi and his colleagues at the NY Assembly for holding the first legislative hearing in New York State history on the “implications of the information revolution for state government.” The hearing will be webcast, and feature a star studded list of top technologists and govtech thinkers from in and outside of government, including international open government guru Beth Noveck,  and NYC Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne.  New York based, NGO technology powerhouses,  Open Plans and Civic Commons will bring news from the cutting edge of civic technology.  They will be joined by more NY talent from the SUNY Center for Technology in Government, NY Technology Forum and a who’s who of New York State civic groups including NYPIRG, Citizens Union, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.

The hearing starts at 11am this Friday, November 18. We will post the webcast link here when it becomes available.  Don’t miss it. The hearing will be centered around eight excellent questions, which any government could ask itself.

  1. How are New York State agencies, other states, and municipalities currently using information technology to make government more transparent and accountable to the public? Is it working? Does it save tax dollars? What difficulties and barriers have such adaptations encountered?
  2. Does New York have a plan, such as an “open data” plan, to make government data more readily available?

  3. What steps can New York State take to become a national leader in using information technology to promote transparent and accountable government?

  4. Are there simple and affordable data standards or practices that New York should adopt?

  5. What basic package of feedback and outreach tools do you think New York State needs to be considered a leader? What would the cost be to acquire such tools?

  6. What are New York State agencies, other states, and municipalities doing to stay abreast of the rapid changes in information technology? Are there barriers or difficulties unique to governmental bodies that affect their ability to adopt new technology to governmental purposes?

  7. Is there an optimum point in the development and refinement of new technologies at which it is both efficient and practical for government to adopt such technologies? To what extent is it valuable for the private sector to experiment with a technology before a governmental entity invests in it?

  8. How should government introduce new technologies to ensure that all its residents across the entire spectrums of age, income, education, and technological sophistication and in rural, urban, and suburban communities are well served?

They Like Transparency, Until They Don’t (NY Times editorial)

Today’s NY Times editorial on New York City’s deteriorating compliance with the state Freedom of Information Law quotes Reinvent Albany. The Times calls on Mayor Bloomberg to fulfill his commitment to open government.

November 13, 2011

The New York City public advocate, Bill de Blasio, has started an investigation into why the city fails so miserably to release even the most routine data requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. Mr. de Blasio cited a request his office made last November for documentation on delays in school bus service. He is still waiting for the documents, but he recently got one of many “lovely letters” that explain how the Department of Education is still working on his request.

He is not alone in his experience or his frustration. City agencies “over time have optimized their ability to game the system or not comply at all,” says John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a group that promotes transparency in government. Too often news organizations, advocacy groups and others have had to turn to the courts to pry public information from the city.

In recent years, the New York Civil Liberties Union had to sue to get stop-and-frisk data from the police, details on the race of people shot by officers and shooting reports since 1997. Most recently, the group has filed a suit on behalf of an online columnist asking for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s calendar. The department has argued that the commissioner’s whereabouts are secret for security reasons. Civil liberties lawyers note that the president’s schedule appears daily on the White House Web site, so why not Mr. Kelly’s?

Similarly, The Times was forced to go to court to get fuller access to police data. A judge ruled early last month that the New York Police Department had improperly withheld information about pistol owners and the locations of hate crimes.

Such effort and expense to get public information is simply wrong. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has vowed to promote more open government, should tell his administrators to comply with the Freedom of Information Law quickly and thoroughly.