“Access to reliable, high-speed internet is no longer a luxury. In 2017, it is a necessity,” said Ben Kallos, member of the New York City Council. “Whether you are a small business competing for customers or a high school student doing homework, access to broadband could make the difference between landing a big contract or not, or getting an A on a research paper. I applaud this administration's efforts as New York City works toward universal broadband access."
The new datasets released in the update include NYPD complaint data on felonies, misdemeanors and violent crimes reported between 2006 and 2016; details of City Council participatory budgeting projects from 2012 onwards; data on the programs, benefits and resources for 40 health and human services available to New Yorkers; and a Department of City Planning database of more than 35,000 records on public and private facilities from 50 sources. Other new aspects of the program include legal mandates for compliance with FOIL requests and on timing of responses to data requests.
Though FOIL requests involving data are being streamlined, City Council Member Ben Kallos, a longtime advocate of open data, thinks that it can be improved further by passing his “Open FOIL” bill, which would create “one searchable database of Freedom of Information Law requests sent to city agencies.” Kallos also believes that the city could do more outreach about the existence of the open data initiative.
"The City is getting better and better at getting the word out about Open Data,” Kallos told Gotham Gazette. “I for one want to see Open Data classes taught at our city libraries so anyone can learn how to use the data sets, not just techies." Indeed, while many data sets are available, they aren’t always easy to digest or utilize to find patterns or other takeaways.
NEW YORK—The Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications today released the annual update to the NYC Open Data Plan, a schedule of public datasets City agencies plan to release through 2018. Over the last year, agencies have released datasets across hundreds of categories, from the number of trees planted to FDNY incident dispatch numbers. The annual update is part of Open Data for All, a strategic overhaul around how the City collects and reports data to New Yorkers, with a focus on helping as many New Yorkers as possible view, understand, and engage with information that describes how government is helping them live, work, and play.
"Open Data empowers residents with data they need to learn about city services first hand and is an invaluable tool for elected officials like me to analyze and oversee how our city delivers services,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “In particular, I’m excited to see the inclusion of the Programs and Benefits API. Residents can now get the help they need from a list of benefits available, who qualifies and how to apply. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and DoITT Commissioner Anne Roest for continuing to make New York City more transparent with each new data set."
"As an elected official, it's in my job description to stand with my constituents -- all of my constituents. Many New York residents are immigrants, and all of us should do what we can to actively welcome them into our city. I'd like to extend a huge thanks to the hackers and programmers who showed up today to say that they do," said Councilman Ben Kallos, New York City Council, 5th District.
Dear Chairman and Commissioners,
We write once again on behalf of the 8.5 million residents of New York City to protect and promote the Open Internet and net neutrality.
New York City, through its City Council and its Mayor, is committed to universal broadband in order to bridge the digital divide. Yet the divide between those who can access reasonable broadband service and those who cannot will remain unbridgeable unless the Commission uses its mandate to expand access to broadband to protect and promote the Open Internet and net neutrality. There are 6.4 million people in New York State who have yet to adopt broadband, whose access to necessary and useful information and applications must be protected and promoted. Whether you use legal authority deriving from Telecommunications Act of 1996, Section 706 –the mandate to promote broadband deployment – or reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must protect the Free and Open Internet.
Without net neutrality, cable companies would have the power to censor, block or otherwise discriminate against the digital tools necessary to thrive in the modern world.
The hackathon will feature speakers, judges, and mentors from the New York City Council, New York State Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance, FWD.us, Fueled, Major League Hacking, New York Immigration Coalition, CUNY Dreamers and other New York-area organizations. Event sponsors include Impact Hub NYC, The Studio Project, Innovation Collective, “I Am An Immigrant,” Major League Hacking, Civic Hall, and AlleyWatch.
This year’s hackathon theme is “I Stand With Immigrants.” Participants will come together to build apps, websites, and other digital products to highlight the immigrant experience and create opportunities for allies to stand in solidarity with New York’s vibrant immigrant community. The theme is a continuation of the new Immigrant Heritage Month 2017 campaign from “I Am An Immigrant,” titled “I Stand With Immigrants,” a call for immigrants and allies across the country to celebrate our nation’s shared immigrant heritage.
At Charter, we strive to reflect the vibrant diversity of the communities we serve through every facet of our business. That starts with over 11,000 highly trained, diverse employees right here in New York, who help to deliver superior products and services to our three million customers throughout the state.
We’re committed to growing this workforce. Across our footprint, we are planning to hire 20,000 employees by 2020, including thousands of veterans. And so far this year, we’ve hired over 1,200 new employees in the state of New York.
We’re proud to offer our millions of customers the products and services that are most relevant to them. Charter has significantly expanded access to African-American focused and owned programming, as well as to Latino targeted English language programming. Additionally, our Spectrum Mi Latino Plan provides over 75 Spanish-language networks, the most Spanish-language HD channels, and Spectrum NY1 Noticias which provides news 24/7 throughout New York City. Spectrum’s telephone service includes unlimited calling to the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico across the entire footprint as well as to the Dominican Republic and Colombia for our customers in New York City.
Ben Kallos, NYC Council Member, introduced a bill that would require city agencies to begin making their data available via user interface / API. This would be a major step towards increasing city efficiency, by enabling the private sector to build solutions that meet their own local needs.
How we currently interact with various government agencies — even for simple tasks like renewing a license, reporting a power outage, or casting a vote — is incomprehensibly cumbersome and time consuming. There’s little reason why these processes have not already been app-enabled and mostly automated, except that our city agencies are fractured and don’t have the bandwidth to pull themselves off legacy systems into the modern world.
“Cities are still thinking about data as archive files. They’re not thinking about streams of data,” Stae co-founder John Edgar told me.
So let’s take this step by step. First, cities already have many sets of data coming from utilities, public transport, ambulances, residence complaints, traffic cameras and more. Instead of exporting a CSV or Excel file every now and then to look at this data, Stae wants to turn this data into APIs. By doing that, Stae standardizes data sets and it becomes easier to manipulate them.
And Stae is not the only one thinking this way. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos just introduced a bill that asks city agencies to share their data using an API.
If enacted, the bill would mean people "won't have to deal with the bureaucracy and red tape of government," argued Kallos, a Democratic councilman who represents Midtown East, the Upper East Side, East Harlem, and Roosevelt Island. "Government gets a lot wrong, and a lot of that comes from having to shove pieces of paper around," he said, explaining that automating all that paper pushing could eliminate or lessen the chances of error.
Kallos said it's all about making government services and public data more easily accessible to constituents. One example already in place: New York City's 311 phone line for reporting non-emergency situations. Under this new law, all new services would include an API that would let people submit requests directly to the city, without having to spend a ton of time on hold and without having to enter their information over and over again, as can often be the case now.
City Council Member Ben Kallos is always looking for ways to make government more efficient and accessible through technology and the use of data. To that end, Kallos, himself a programmer, introduced a bill last week that would require information generated or received by city agencies to be available through an interface that allows easy use of the data and, ideally, a streamlined experience for New Yorkers interacting with their city government.
This would occur through an Application Program Interface (API); essentially, Kallos explained, “a language dictionary so a piece of software can communicate with another software.” Such a system would facilitate the automatic availability of city data through mobile- or web-based applications, opening up opportunities for the private sector to create programs that interact with city government. A program that easily transmits permit and license applications, for example.
GovAPI Act Would Provide Interface for Digital Requests and Submission for All Government Information As Proposed by City Council Member Kallos New York, NY – Long lines, hold music and bureaucratic forms could soon be replaced by an app for that as the private sector innovates government thanks to new legislation (Int.1594) introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos that would require that all information received or transmitted by city government to be available through an Application Program Interface (API).
“Government, there should be an app for that. We need to build an API for government, so that the private sector can innovate and bring government into the 21st century. New Yorkers should be able to use government services as simply as new apps deliver food or a car when you need one,” said New York City Council Member Ben Kallos a free and open source software developer.
Any time a paper form, an operator, or website requests information like a name, email, income, or other details that information could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. Similarly, anytime the city shares information on whether you qualified for public benefits, are registered to vote, or owe taxes that could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. An Application Programming Interface or API provides a set of definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software, or in general terms, it provides a translation dictionary for different software to communicate to make it easier for developers to program new applications.
Low-income seniors and families now have access to high-speed internet service for less than 15 dollars per month through a new program available to customers of Charter Communications, the cable giant that acquired Time Warner Cable last year and offers broadband service in New York through its Spectrum brand.
“Over a million New Yorkers will have access to low-cost broadband” through the Spectrum Internet Assist program, City Council Member Ben Kallos said at an event announcing the initiative at Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center on East 93rd Street last week.
“This new service will ensure internet access is no longer a luxury that goes to the few, but is rather treated as a basic necessity in the 21st Century,” said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.
State regulators gave the Connecticut-based communication company permission last year to buy Time Warner Cable on the condition that it upgrade broadband speeds and expand high-speed Web service to low-income consumers.
City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and Public Advocate Letitia James supported the sale conditions.
“Access to affordable high-speed internet should not be a luxury reserved for few — it is increasingly important for everyone to have access in today’s society," James said in a statement.
“Look out Silicon Valley, here comes Silicon Alley, supported by a city government that is providing the funding, space, and data the tech sector needs to thrive,” stated New York City Council Member Ben Kallos.
“Uber engages with regulators and complies with regulation,” City Council member Ben Kallos said. “And Airbnb does whatever it wants in violation of the law.”
HHS and Intuit Release App to Fight Poverty Nationwide
Federal Government to host Intuit Benefit Assist as a free, open source Tool to Help More Americans
Washington, D.C. – Oct. 13, 2016 – Approximately one in six Americans do not have enough money for food or other essential needs and they often miss out on income-based government benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps or free mobile phone service. To make it easier for Americans to determine eligibility and apply for these benefits, Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU), through a collaboration with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, is releasing to the Federal Government its Benefit Assist software as free, open source code on GitHub with a demonstration. Now anyone, whether state government, non-profit or a developer, can freely use, share and improve upon Benefit Assist to help Americans in find and use these valuable benefits.
States will be able to save money using Benefit Assist to collectively build and improve on the software to reduce overhead, potentially saving our nation billions.
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An online tool from tax preparation company Intuit that can easily determine whether an application is eligible for food stamps or other benefits is now freely available through a federal agency to states, local governments or nonprofit organizations.
Councilman Ben Kallos has been pushing for legislation that would require the city to use income tax filings to determine eligibility for public benefits.
Last year, Intuit made the Benefit Assist tool available to help users of TurboTax determine whether they were eligible for an array of programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare and many others.
The Mayor's Office of Data Analytics and Councilman Ben Kallos are seeking feedback on proposed geospatial open data standardsbeginning Friday.
The proposed standards follow fromlegislationintroduced by Kallos and signed into law last year to improve on the city's open data law. It mandates the establishment of a technical standard that requires every public data set containing address information to utilize a standard layout. The law states that if there is a dataset for which an agency cannot use such a layout, the agency must provide the city and the Council with the reasons preventing it from doing so and a date by which it will be able to comply.
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"Our goal is to make government location-aware and the best way to do that is to standardize geographic information across of all our datasets, so that folks can just throw it on a map easily," Kallos said.
“The law hamstrings case law over and over again, and sometimes that law goes against what everyone wants,” Kallos added.
But he admitted that elected officials are restricted in what they can achieve in office. “Everyone from the city council member to the U.S. president” is faced with the same problem: “wherever you go, somehow you don’t have the power,” he said.
“We’ve got a democratic government, and it’s broken in a lot of different ways,” Kallos warned, adding that one pivotal challenge is that “a lot of people aren’t really engaging most of the time, and what ends up happening is we’re not included in the decision-making process. … Democracy actually requires, and in many places demands, public input.”