Last night, Rachel Haot returned to the New York Tech Meetup stage for the first time since becoming Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief digital officer and deputy secretary of technology.
Before the evening’s scheduled monthly demos of technology and ideas began (see slideshow above), Haot talked up ways Cuomo’s administration wants to collaborate more with the innovation community.
Making plans to connect more of the populace to data and the Web is a common theme among politicos of late. The usual talking point is that folks with limited or no means to use such resources are at a disadvantage, and may fall further behind. “There’s still a million New Yorkers who do not have access to high-speed broadband, and that’s unacceptable,” Haot said. In the coming months, she said, the state would reveal plans to address the disparity, but she offered no details.
Moves to close this “digital divide” are already underway in New York City, where Haot previously worked. Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced plans with Qualcomm and others to turn payphones across the city into free, public Wi-Fi hotspots.
Haot served as chief digital officer in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, pushing various technology initiatives in the city. After his final term ended, she joined Cuomo’s administration. In September, de Blasio appointed Minerva Tantoco as New York City’s chief technology officer.
In her current role, Haot and her staff work on policies and programs to modernize the state government. One of those efforts, she said, which at first glance may seem minor, was updating the administration’s website, NY.gov.
The site, Haot said, had not seen a tangible change since 1998. It got a redesign two weeks ago, making it easier to navigate and more compatible with mobile devices.
Aside from aesthetic changes, Haot said the state is also eager to see more companies use its open data, made available through the Open.NY.gov portal. She said Campuscrime.ny.gov, which launched Tuesday, is an example of public data, collected on crimes committed on college campuses in the state, being used to better inform the community. Haot also talked up the Start-Up NY program, which gives tax breaks for 10 years to companies that move to or expand in certain areas.
The state wants to build up technology education among residents, Haot said, to get them better prepared for jobs in the growing technology industries. “We need to make sure everyone knows the technologies that are underlying the companies you are building,” she said.
The state’s Smart Schools Bond Act, she said, will provide $2 billion towards outfitting schools with equipment to put more students on the path toward technology jobs. One hurdle that must be cleared, Haot said, is getting more classrooms connected. “There are more than 500 schools, many of them in New York City, that do not have high-speed broadband access,” she said.
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