Episode #3

New York City and Its Small Businesses Go Digital

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

You could think of New York City's Digital Roadmap, published in the spring of 2011, as the founding document or charter for the city's push to make municipal government — and the citizens it supports — more high-tech.

The brains behind the effort was Rachel Haot (née Sterne), the city's first-ever Chief Digital Officer. The 29-year-old former tech entrepreneur was hired by Mayor Michael Bloomberg with a clear-cut mission: Make New York City a leader in digital technology.

Now, more than a year later, Haot's office, NYC Digital, says it has achieved 80 percent of the goals laid out in the Digital Roadmap. Among other accomplishments, it has introduced more Wi-Fi in public places, hosted the city’s first hackathon and launched the @nycgov Twitter handle.

This week on WNYC's New Tech City, host Manoush Zomorodi talks to Haot about the state of the city when it comes to technology.

Haot discusses the steps the Bloomberg administration is taking to retain top-level software engineers, expand broadband service and reach out to New Yorkers who don't have a computer or smartphone.

She also explains NYC Digital's most recent program — the Small Business Digital Toolkit — a set of online and offline courses to teach business owners 21st century skills like e-commerce and how to use social media or build a website.

"Ninety percent of people, when they are looking for a small business, will immediately search for one online," Haot said. "But only about 60 percent of those small businesses even have a website or a digital presence."

In an August report called "Smarter Small Businesses," the Center for an Urban Future argues that small businesses in the city face the threat of extinction if they don't adapt to changing technologies.

"People aren't going into the Yellow Pages anymore," said Jonathan Bowles, the organization's executive director. "If you don't advertise on Google, if you don't advertise on Facebook, a lot of these neighborhood-based businesses are missing out on a lot of potential customers."

With that in mind, WNYC's Dan Tucker talks to small business owners along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to see whether they think going digital makes sense for their stores, saloons and delis.


Rachel Haot

Hosted by:

Manoush Zomorodi

Produced by:

Daniel P. Tucker


Charlie Herman

Three Apps I Can't Live Without | Jacob Ford, NYU Freshman

Jacob Ford, 18, is a freshman at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where he plans to pursue a degree in design.

Comments [1]

Three Apps I Can't Live Without | Jonathan Bowles

Jonathan Bowles is the executive director of the Center for an Urban Future in New York.

Comments [1]

Comments [3]


Exciting developments! Nice to see NY embracing opportunity for small business.

Sep. 26 2012 12:16 PM

@Larry. At this point, you can't send a text and ask "How many minutes until my train arrives at my specific station?" That feature is called a "real-time" update and requires GPS or other location information on the trains and buses themselves. In cities such as San Francisco, Boston, Detroit and others you can know when a bus will arrive at your exact station based not on a schedule or estimate, but on where it actually is at that exact moment. NYC has this for some buses, known as Bus Time. But we do not have it for the subway system.

Sep. 25 2012 11:09 AM
Larry from Brooklyn

On this morning's program, the reporter asked when New Yorkers would "finally" be able to check on subway status on their phones. This can be done now very easily. Not only do I get emailed status alerts when my selected line has a delay, but I can quickly click on the MTA website (bookmarked on my Android main screen) to see all the lines in a single glance on a page that fits my phone's screen perfectly. What else could you want?

Sep. 25 2012 08:07 AM

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