Fast Company

Rachel Sterne Haot's User-Centric Approach To New York City

"I'm From The Government..." And despite the classic Reagan joke, these innovators actually are here to help. But it isn’t always easy.

Rachel Sterne Haot

Chief digital officer, New York City

The onetime entrepreneur (she cofounded citizen journalism startup Ground­Report) has overseen digital strategy for the Bloomberg adminis­tration since 2011.

The Urban Enthusiast

"The challenge with innovation in government is the same as in any large organization: As organizations grow, they become stable and develop systems, and it can be a challenge to change. But a lot of cities are succeeding. Look to places like Buenos Aires, where they have phenomenal innovations with open government; London, where they have a program supporting tech development; Boston, where they have the Office of New Urban Mechanics; or Chicago, where they have very progressive open data initiatives.

In New York City's offices, there's a countdown clock that says Make Every Day Count, and shows the number of days until the administration's end. By doing that, we help to create that same sense of urgency that you see in innovative startups.

Coming from a startup myself, what was most helpful was bringing a user-centric approach to the city's digital strategy. Whatever your user experience of New York City government is, that's what our focus is--whether you're connected through text messages that tell you about nearby job openings, or accessing our website for social benefits, or using social media for city information. We've more than doubled our social media audience over the past two years, from 1.2 million to more than 3 million. Holding and hosting the city's first ever hackathon in 2011 was meant to encourage and build that engagement.

It also led to the production of really great tools and design references. Studies have shown that the public trusts and supports local government more than any other type of government, so I do think there's a really great opportunity there--and we try to act on that."

[Photo by Peter Ash Lee]


Fast Talk: "I'm From The Government..."

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