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10 Reasons Why City Governments Should Embrace Hackathons

Rachel Sterne is Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York, where she focuses on the City’s digital media strategy. You can follow her on Twitter @RachelSterne or follow the City @nycgov

Today is the last day to sign up for Reinvent NYC.GOV, the City’s first-ever hackathon. Civic-minded designers and developers who want to help improve NYC government are encouraged to apply at: reinventnycgov.com

Why have we decided to invite the best and brightest of NYC’s tech community to help us improve NYC.gov? Here’s the backstory.

Improving Our Digital Footprint

When we asked New Yorkers for their input on New York City’s “Road Map for the Digital City,” one of the biggest topics of feedback was NYC.gov, the City government’s main digital presence.

Some New Yorkers praised the scope of information offered and ability to pay bills and look up records online. Others suggested we had room for improvement. Comments included: “NYC.gov is a little hard to navigate/search,” “NYC.gov could use a refresh” and “NYC.gov is just too unwieldy.” The refrain was clear: The site was muddy, but we had an opportunity to make NYC.gov more cohesive and user-centric while integrating it with different communication channels in social media.

Last week, New York City Government and General Assembly announced Reinvent NYC.GOV, our first-ever hackathon to help solve this challenge in an open, transparent, participatory environment.

Taking place July 30 to 31 at entrepreneurship-focused community learning space General Assembly, it’s an important step in our our Road Map to realize NYC’s digital potential. Here are a few reasons why we’re doing it:

Why NYC Is Hosting a Hackathon

  • 1. It will bridge sectors and connect the government and technology communities around a shared challenge.
  • 2. It will encourage collaborative problem-solving and a more open government. We’ve invited developers to share their ideas for improving a major digital “public space.” NYC.gov has almost as many visitors each year as Central Park and should be similarly cared for.
  • 3. It will create a mechanism for the public to share feedback and ideas for a website that exists to serve them.
  • 4. It can serve as a model for other governments, helping to affect national and international change.
  • 5. It will introduce creative and innovative concepts that could help to evolve NYC.gov to be more efficient and effective in serving and empowering New Yorkers.
  • 6. It will provide both individuals and teams with face-to-face access to the City’s decision makers.
  • 7. It creates a precedent and platform for evolving government through open innovation and participation.
  • 8. It will serve as the first step in a transparent design process. We want to gather as much input as possible. This is a way to move quickly to achieve our goals.
  • 9. It helps remove subjectivity from the design process by clearly showing what the public wants and needs.
  • 10. It equips developers with the internal data they need to make user experience decisions, such as analytics, as well as support from our tech partners, including DonorsChoose, ExpertLabs, Facebook,Foursquare, Google, Meetup and YouTube.

We think this model is an important part of New York City’s digital Road Map and feel that it can be an effective piece for other cities, as well. What are your ideas for the future of NYC.gov? Tell us in the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #reinventnycgov


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Kristy Dalton

Wait, aren’t you just pasting an article written by Rachel Sterne for Mashable? I’ve cross-posted on Govloop before, but only when the articles were my own. A better approach would be to reference an article posted elsewhere, then post your own thoughts or recap.

Carl Webb

But what if I’m not a writer and have no articles of my own? What if my thought aren’t fully developed yet but I was want to pass on something that might spark interest in a conversation?

Kristy Dalton

In that case, people usually link to the article (or copy a brief excerpt and then link to the article), and write that you think it is interesting because of x,y,z and invite others to share their comments. Copying an article posted in another publication in its entirety is typically asking for trouble in terms of copyright, so even news organizations don’t do it.

Carl Webb

I got an email that said my post was featured on GovLoop so I think they’re not worried about me violating copy right.

Kristy Dalton

It always depends how much of the article you use and what publication it’s from. Read more about copyright law to educate yourself, but here’s Mashable’s own policy: “Use of a logo, or more than a line or two of copy, is often illegal without the consent of the publisher and adherence to specific guidelines.” http://www.mashablereprints.com/faqs/