New York Announces Digital Roadmap. Will Massachusetts Lead, Follow or Abdicate?

Mayor Mike Bloomberg wants to establish New York as the nation’s leading digital city. That makes him different from almost any mayor in the world.

Bloomberg is a technovore, and because of this he is centering the City of New York’s focus on establishing it as a digital communications leader. He’s personally in the mix on this. Just last month he kicked off “Foursquare Day” in New York , not as a novice, but as a guy who gets it, and who is cheerleading a local start-up.

Yesterday the City of New York announced its Road Map for The Digital City, a 60-page plan to “achieve New York City’s digital future.” To put momentum behind the plan, the Mayor inked deals with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Tumblr to leverage the services in forty departments and make the digital channel key to city customer services and communication. And this is planned to be operational by the end of summer…THIS summer.

Fueling New York’s Digital Economy
Besides working on network access, open government and citizen engagement, New York’s plan sets a course to encourage its digital economy in the following ways:

  1. Establish a new engineering institution
  2. Expand workforce development programs to support growth and diversity in the digital sector
  3. Support technology startup infrastructure needs
  4. Continue to recruit more engineering talent and teams to New York City
  5. Promote and celebrate NYC’s digital sector through events and awards
  6. Pursue a new .nyc top-level domain, led by the city’s IT department.

Will Boston Compete to Be the Most Digital City in the World?
Part of the plan also includes establishing an index for digital achievement in partnership with other major international cities. Will Boston be one?

The challenge is now before us: lead, follow, or abdicate?
Hello, Mayor Menino? Hello, MITX? Hello, Mass Technology Leadership Council? Hello, Senator Spilka of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies? Hello, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative? Hello, Acting State Chief Information Officer John Letchford? What say you? Are we in together, or just freelancing in the same direction?

Tonight, a few of us here in Massachusetts are having a discussion about what industry and government groups can do to Fuel Massachusetts’ Digital Economy. I believe that New York’s road map gives this meeting in a new perspective. It should be a wake-up call. Too often Boston is the business incubator, and its breakthrough firms are acquired or move as they grow.

I’m excited by how the Boston Police Department has grabbed on to real-time messaging, such as Twitter. And I’m proud to have been part of the group that established But now we need to get beyond point solutions to find ways to enrich the whole digital ecosystem.

So What Makes New York Different?
For one thing, Mayor Bloomberg is a technovore. Digital communications technology is part of his diet. It’s how he thrives.

In the world of elected politics, that’s still quite unusual. Leaving an electronic trail of what you say, in email, on Twitter, or IM is exactly what experienced political operatives avoid. Phones are good; email and Twitter create more risk than reward. While .gov projects carry their own special governance and funding complexities, being connected to a culture that avoids “on-record” utterances is a challenge. It’s hard to centralize anything in Massachusetts, and Boston can be impenetrable to those elsewhere in the state.

But still, of tonight’s panel, how many of the public sector leaders have tweeted or posted in the last week? My quick search on their Twitter feeds shows little to no real engagement, or in some cases weeks of non-use. We have some building to do.

In Massachuetts, Jane Swift was the first governor who kept and used a computer in her office. That doesn’t make her good or bad, but it did create conceptual possibilities for her and the governors who followed her. Real energy and inspiration come from the top of the ticket.

I know advisers and consultants to both Mayor Bloomberg and Menino; both are smart guys. Both know that digital communications is a pivot in government and the creative economy.  But at this moment, Bloomberg and New York are the team with a plan, and my Boston favorites are approaching this competitive season with hope, and a great set of civic and business supporters who need focal leadership.

It’s time to take our achievements and goodwill and formalize them into a shared vision. For a pretty good starting point, we might look a couple hundred miles to our south.

2 Responses to "New York Announces Digital Roadmap. Will Massachusetts Lead, Follow or Abdicate?"

  • Debi Kleiman

    May 17, 2011

    Hi Dave, Great article and I love the competitive spirit. I agree that we should be moving this way, in fact we should be leading, by a lot. We have incredible assets here in Mass that make it the perfect environment to be creating a digital economy that is rich and vibrant and a city that embraces all of it. We’ve made some strides but there’s still much to do. I am looking forward to the discussion tonight – I am excited for us to put some of this serious horsepower into actionable plans!

  • Ian Smith

    May 20, 2011

    Dave, leadership comes in many forms and people want to be led. The key to the New York Plan is leadership and who better than Bloomberg. I’m not sure who the Boston leader could be but if one could find a leader with imagination and passion for the concept the infrastructure and talent in Boston would drive behind it.

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