Want to know if there's construction in the Midtown Tunnel, or to track the spending of federal stimulus dollars on projects in the Five Boroughs? Check your iPhone. At least that's what Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes you'll do. Bloomberg, making good on a promise of increased civic transparency for New Yorkers, initiated an annual contest this morning awarding cash prizes to Web developers that create innovative Internet and mobile applications using city data.
The Big Apps contest will work through the recently announced ".nyc" domain, where all public city data will eventually be housed in a machine-readable format. Once the site is operational (sometime next year), developers will be able to connect to the data.nyc portal to update their apps with the freshest available data streaming in from all city agencies.
"What we're trying to do here is create the connectedness that will benefit the city economically, civically and socially," Bloomberg told attendees of the Personal Democracy Forum, a conference on the intersection between technology and politics. Bloomberg wasn't able to attend the conference, but his presence was beamed to New York City's Lincoln Center via Skype.
The amount of data coming out of New York City agencies is fairly tremendous, so there's a lot of creative room for developers to play with possibilities. Developers have already created apps that provide transit maps and service updates for NYC trains and buses. But what about interactive maps that keep drivers up to date on street/lane closures and repairs or quick statistical snapshots of taxation and property values in different neighborhoods around the city? Or perhaps real time traffic data that syncs with Google maps? Or, to use Bloomberg's example, what about a mobile app that taps into the report cards the health department keeps on city restaurants? That could come in handy for the grand-prize winner, who has been promised a dinner on the town with Bloomberg himself.