It seems there was no escaping talk of government Tuesday night even at the New York Tech Meetup—but at least the focus was on how to make technology work rather than dysfunctional politics.
The demos at the monthly gathering included three teams of high schoolers who created apps and websites under the Code/Interactive program, software that uses machine learning to understand parking signs, several presenters from January’s NYTM Women’s Demo Night, and SOLS CEO Kegan Schouwenburg literally putting her best foot forward (see slideshow.)
A crew from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office also came out to present a website intended to increase transparency in government. Nick Suplina, senior advisor and special counsel to Schneiderman, said the attorney general’s staff uses technology and data to protect New Yorkers from mortgage scams, public corruption, and other bad actors. Suplina and Lacey Keller, director of research and analytics, said their NYOpenGovernment.com is a means to see who is behind some of the wheeling and dealing in state government.
It was the latest effort by the AG’s office to connect with the New York tech scene. Last September, Schneiderman himself paid a visit to Civic Hall in New York for meet-and-greet with the innovation community here.
With NYOpenGovernment.com, Suplina said, the intent is to make the state government more accountable. The site lets people see where campaign contributions have gone, as well as payments made by political campaigns to other organizations—including to the New York Yankees.
“It aggregates from a number of different state data sources,” Suplina said. Prior to the website launch, such information was scattered across disparate agency sites.
Keller said NYOpenGovernment is also a way to see the lobbying activity on legislation that makes the rounds in Albany. “Before this, nowhere in New York State could you search for a bill and see exactly who lobbied on it,” she said.
For instance, the site showed that a lobbyist for the so-called “No Tiger Selfies” bill passed last year works largely for the Humane Society, Keller said. (That particular legislation was created to curb the trend of people taking “selfie” pictures with tigers.) The site also displays every bill each lobbyist has gone to bat for.
In addition to legislation, she said the site can be used to look up information on state contracts.
The New York AG’s office may have other ideas in mind for the data and analytics it has access to—if it can attract more tech talent. “My team is hiring,” Keller said.