NY1 VIDEO:The Road to City Hall’s Josh Robin asked Manhattan Borough President-elect Gale Brewer, who wrote the city's open data legislation, Evan Korth, the Executive Director of the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education and Andrew Rasiej, technology strategist, founder of Personal Democracy Forum and Chair of NY Tech Meetup, to offer suggestions on how the new mayor can help the tech sector.
By Andrew Rasiej | Via Business Insider
Much has been written and said lately about the fear and trepidation prevailing over the New York City technology and entrepreneurial community as one of their own, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, leaves office, and Bill de Blasio, the city’s Public Advocate, takes his place.
Some of this concern is reasonable considering that for the last 12 years most people in the startup and emerging technology industries could not have asked for a more supportive Mayor.
Among the Mayor Bloomberg’s signature achievements were: the formation of Cornell’s Technion’s campus to stimulate the creation of high-quality home-grown tech talent; the appointment of New York City’s first Chief Digital Officer, Rachel Haot who, among many accomplishments, championed two iterations of a NYC Digital Road Map, lead the re-launch of the NYC.gov, oriented the city towards the future of disaster relief by helping to create Code Corps to bring the benefits of technology to bear after Hurricane Sandy; and helped position NYC government as a leader in the open civic data movement by supporting the passage of City Council woman Gail Brewer’s NYC’s open data legislation and the city’s now annual Big Apps competition.
Other initiatives by the City’s Economic Development Corporation to support and stimulate investments in technology startups, create WiFi corridors in multiple neighborhoods, and provide grants to strategic startups like General Assembly, add greatly to the Mayor’s legacy as a champion for all things related to New York’s tech.
Yet, even with all these great initiatives, there is still much more to be done to ensure that New York City builds the digital foundations for its future and transforms itself to successfully compete in the new hyper-connected global economy.
It’s true that Mayor-elect de Blasio is relatively unknown to members of tech community, many of whom are not deeply versed in the city’s politics or generally maintain an apolitical perspective. However, de Blasio’s rejection of some of Mayor Bloomberg’s policies during a partisan election campaign should not be confused with his agreement with the current Mayor that the technology industry is key to NYC’s future success and that it should continue to be supported and recognized as key strategic partner in the city’s future.
In fact, the tech community should be reassured and excited by the prospect of a future Mayor de Blasio because he has already clearly articulated a public policy perspective that tackles many of NYC tech community’s most important issues. Just three of his explicitly stated goals could do more for the future of New York’s tech sector than anything done previously. They are:
1) Make New York City the most wired city in the world with low-cost high-speed wired broadband delivered to every residence and business.
2) Increase the pool of engineering talent available in NYC by extending the vision of Cornell Technion to the entire system of the City University of New York (CUNY) while simultaneously accelerating the teaching of science and math in public schools. Both of these efforts will help address the city’s current tech talent gap and make it less reliant on importing skilled professionals as it does now.
3) Retool New York City government to become a 21st century enterprise with more standardized and open data, revise the procurement processes to allow startups to bid on city contracts, and use new tools and platforms to deliver services more efficiently while engaging the public in making the city work better.
However, if the technologists and entrepreneurs of New York who loved the Bloomberg era really want to make sure that the momentum and economic growth that comes with digital innovation continues in New York after he leaves office, they could do themselves and their city a huge favor by not simply asking what a Mayor de Blasio might do for them and their industry, but rather asking what can they do to help the new Mayor succeed and achieve his technology policy goals.
For example, de Blasio is now looking to fill multiple positions in his administration and he would do well having staff working with him that understand the power of technology and how to apply it to help solve problems as well as move the economy forward. Entrepreneurs and technologists looking for new interesting challenges should apply to join the administration and make sure the “DNA” of innovation is embedded early and often as the new government takes shape.
Secondly, the New York Tech community should follow the lead of Union Square Venture’s Fred Wilson and hackNY’s Evan Korth who together with MOUSE.org’s first Executive Director, Sarah Holloway have founded the New York Foundation for Computer Science Education to help fund programs to teach science and math in public schools. If the tech community really wants to see the pool of available engineering talent increase, then thousands of us are needed to volunteer our time and expertise, partnering with schools and empowering principals, teachers, and students to use technology the way we do everyday.
Lastly, the technology community should organize itself to help the city’s emergency response systems and organizations be better prepared for disasters. That can be done either by helping build resilient communications infrastructure to survive floods, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks, or volunteering after a disaster strikes to aid people, businesses, schools, and even government get back on their feet by helping in the recovery of their databases, websites, and other digital infrastructure so critical to their ability to function.
As we say good-bye to Mayor Bloomberg and applaud him for a job well done, let’s roll up our sleeves and offer the new Mayor our help. If we want to make technology that changes the world, then let’s prove it by using our time, skills, and technologies to help Mayor-elect de Blasio achieve his goals of making New York a more inclusive and more balanced digital city for all.
Andrew Rasiej is chairman of NY Tech Meetup and founder of Personal Democracy Media.
By Tim Herrera | Via amNY
New York City's tech industry has grown steadily in recent years, becoming a vital cog to the economy, and digital insiders are hoping Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio keeps the trend going as he takes office in January.
De Blasio's tech talking points have been mostly vague, though he has consistently said he wants to keep New York an industry leader. To do that, his expressed plans for Silicon Alley include proposals to increase STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, to fight for workforce diversity, and to advocate for immigration reform that would retain and attract talent. Still, compared to his predecessor, it is somewhat of a light load.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has left a richlegacy in technology: Through his policies, initiatives and endless vocal support, Bloomberg helped turn tech into New York's second-largest industry and a national hotspot second only to Silicon Valley. (He also happened to found a little tech company called Bloomberg L.P.in 1981.)
However, many industry leaders are optimistic de Blasio can keep New York at the top of the tech world.
"De Blasio has probably been the most vocal elected leader around tech policies that go directly to the core of New York's [tech] community's most important needs," said Andrew Rasiej, chairman of New York Tech Meetup, which organizes regular gatherings of tech professionals.
Many agreed but with the caveat that de Blasio is mostly unproven in the area and should lay out more detailed plans in the upcoming months.
"To be honest he hasn't been specific enough" to analyze his proposals, said Jake Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of General Assembly, a tech educational institute. He's made "really encouraging general statements, but what we're gonna be looking for is when the rubber hits the road with policy decisions and how he chooses to staff the Economic Development Corporation" and his office, Schwartz said. (De Blasio's office didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.)
amNewYork spoke with Silicon Alley leaders and insiders about how de Blasio can continue New York's progress in the area, and these are the ideas we heard most:
Be a cheerleader: Mayor Bloomberg was vocal about the city's tech industry, which some experts said was a major contributor to raising its profile.
"Probably the biggest thing Bloomberg did for tech in New York was talking about it," said Erik Grimmelmann, executive director and vice-chairman of the New York Technology Council, a tech advocacy group. "Tech is very strong in New York, the best it's ever been, and the world didn't know that. Bloomberg got out there and told the world."
Improve broadband and wireless connectivity throughout the city: This was the most common problem among the experts we spoke with, and in some ways it is an analogy for the city's relationship to the industry.
"It's the most major issue because from it drives so many things," Rasiej said. "For tech businesses, broadband is a huge issue, but it's also huge because the education system needs to be reinvigorated and wiring schools is not enough. We have to wire the kids, and broadband costs" are out of reach for many New York families, Rasiej said, adding that the city's telcos have yet to deliver on promises to install wiring.
"The No. 1 thing on minds is increasing broadband access and speed in the city," he said. "It's a real problem right now," he said, adding that he has colleagues starting businesses in the city who are unable to get broadband for "months" after moving into their spaces.
Improve STEM education: De Blasio has already set forth a plan to improve STEM education, including a two-year program at CUNY and a scholarship encouraging post-graduation work in the city.
"New York a shortage of tech talent," Grimmelmann said. "There are fewer people with the skills than there are jobs. We need better STEM education in elementary and secondary schools. We need more people trained at the university level."
Stay business-friendly: "The technology community benefited tremendously from the Bloomberg administration's focus on innovation and enabling companies to grow" in the city, said Arnab Gupta, CEO of local big data analytics company Opera Solutions. "As a result, there are now many active initiatives that we are hoping will continue," such as the role of chief digital officer and public-private partnerships with local startups.
Rasiej added there are changes to the tax code that de Blasio should implement to help smaller companies grow, such as the investment tax credit.
Advocate for immigration reform: Though this is largely out of de Blasio's hands, experts said he should strive to be an outspoken leader for reform because it's an issue that has a major impact on the technology industry's workforce.
"In the short-run, immigration reform will help so we can keep some of the tech talent we educate [here] after they graduate and attract entrepreneurs from around the world," Grimmelmann said. "Many of them would love to come here to start companies but we're making it hard on them," he said.
De Blasio has already laid out plans to advocate for "common sense immigration reform" to retain international students who graduate from New York universities.
Expand to the outer boroughs: Silicon Alley is almost synonymous with a handful of areas in Manhattan -- Union Square and SoHo, in particular -- but Schwartz said there are major moves being made in the outer boroughs that de Blasio should champion.
"There's a lot of opportunities for including the outer boroughs in the tech boom," Schwartz said. "There's of lot of interesting stuff around biotech happening in Harlem to understand what are the roles New York can play in those kinds of industries that are not our typical strength."
Increase workforce diversity: A tech problem not unique to New York, the industry is often slammed for not reaching out enough to minorities and women to join the workforce, and experts said de Blasio should try to make inroads to remedying that problem.
"New York has reputation that this is a friendlier place for women, for example," Grimmelmann said. "Just by saying that out loud and highlighting those successes, that will encourage people to want to come to a friendly place to start their businesses."