Information technologies are making products and services of all types more convenient and less expensive. Thanks to widespread adoption of smartphones, inexpensive broadband access and open source software, innovation is apparent in nearly every industry including transportation, retail, media, housing, healthcare, education and beyond.
Instead of leveraging innovation to make government faster, better and cheaper, New York state is resisting it at every turn. Government websites routinely have out of date information with confusing interfaces that are difficult to navigate using smartphones. When these websites do work, their functionality is often limited to instructions for using the phone or standard mail to perform a task that should be made accessible online.
Behind the scenes, State IT projects are routinely over budget and behind schedule thus costing taxpayers untold millions, delaying much needed reforms and keeping the government structured like it’s still the 20th century. Furthermore, lucrative IT contracts often fall into the hands of politically connected corporations.
We can and must do better.
Larry will bring the entrepreneurial energy, digital savvy and startup mentality necessary to make the state of New York a leader in open and effective government in the digital age.
Governments have been using computers for 50 years, but only recently have technologists begun to apply tech-startup-style tools and techniques to reform decades-old government bureaucracies and make them more flexible, responsive and efficient organizations.
The solution: Establish “digital services organizations” within government agencies to streamline their technology systems, reform their procurement processes and integrate them into a state-wide IT strategy centered around the principles of “open source way” which includes open exchange, participation, rapid prototyping, meritocracy, and community building.
Larry will establish a “digital service organization” modelled after the US General Service Administration’s 18F unit to bring the government of New York state into the 21st century. Similar initiatives in the UK have saved governments approximately .15% off the annual budget. That would amount to approximately $250 million per year of savings while actually improving services. This effort will more than pay for itself in the savings generated.
An attempt to investigate the New York State governments budget quickly leads to the discovery that the information promised to be available to the public is hard to access. It is also difficult to understand and woefully incomplete in terms of scope and depth. The government isn’t interested in helping taxpayers understand how or why the state is spending their money.
Larry will work with the nonprofit sector, other governmental sources of public financial information and the public to make New York the state with the most transparent budget. The public will be able to drill deep into the state budget and identify a line-by-line account of how New York state is collecting and spending their money and how those expenses transform into legitimate projects and services that benefit New Yorkers. Instead of locking this information away in spreadsheets with cryptic names and useless categories, that date will be relayed in an engaging and understandable format through engrossing interfaces modelled after popular video games like SimCity.
Over 80% of New Yorkers have smartphones, and use them to do everything from ordering products to coordinating their work. They should also be able to use them to interact with the government.
Larry will reorganize New York State websites to use best practices in usable, mobile-first design. He will also compel agencies to make their data accessible via APIs and other backend technologies necessary to enable responsible data sharing between agencies and the private sector so people can create products and services that make interacting with New York State, accessing government services, paying taxes and sharing policy opinions faster, better and cheaper than ever before.
A healthy democracy requires a deeply engaged constituency that understands how their government works. Ideally, these voters also know how to build consensus with their fellow citizens enabling them to effectively advocate for policies they want to see enacted. Voting once every two years and signing the occasional petition is not enough to hold our political leaders accountable. We need more and better mechanisms for the public to compel action from its political leaders and the government agencies that work for them.
Governments around the world are figuring out the best way to encourage public participation in political and administrative decision-making a reality for their citizens. In Madrid, Spain, the public uses an open source city website to fund projects, pass proposals and ratify legislation. In Taiwan, the national government organizes collaborative decision-making processes that use online tools and offline events to transparently gather public sentiment and bring the public to consensus about what policies to implement. In Reykjavik, Iceland citizens use online tool to prioritize what projects the city should execute.
Larry will implement a program that brings many of the best practices developed in places around the world together to help empower New Yorkers to engage in productive conversations with their neighbors, develop practical proposals that address local challenges, and get those proposals implemented by the relevant political and government stakeholders.