Published in
The Empire

Timing the NYC upgrade

Rachel Sterne's job as NYC's chief digital officer won't be easy, and comes at a particularly crucial time for the Bloomberg administration.

My story:

For one, Sterne's hire comes at a time when more questions are being raised about Bloomberg's management of city government and it's information flow.

The CityTime project — which was supposed to save the city millions through computerizing its payroll system — has exploded in costs and has been acknowledged as a catastrophe.

The botched snow removal over Christmas highlighted what critics said were inadequate communication channels between city agencies, and between city government and its citizens. Also, Bloomberg's refusal to disclose his location, or that of his top aides who were coordinating snow removal efforts, has led to calls for disclosing their whereabouts more frequently.

Also, earlier efforts to disseminate information collected by the city agencies met resistance from top aides to the mayor.

On June 29, 2009, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer of Manhattan's West Side hosted a hearing on her legislation that would compel city agencies to publish "raw data" it collects online.

Arguing against the legislation were Sami Naim, assistant counselor to Bloomberg, and Ariel Dvorkin, special assistant for policy and government.

They said releasing raw data would be too complex for most users to comprehend.

"You might have a thousand records that you can say in two lines. Our goal is to be as user-friendly with the public as possible," Naim said.

Later, he added, "It’s not how much paper can you put up on the Internet."