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Jessica Singleton, Digital Director, City of New York

Jessica Singleton, Digital Director, City of New York

Today, the City of New York and Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled digital.NYC, the world’s first comprehensive, digital hub for New York City’s thriving tech community and startup ecosystem. Powered by IBM Cloud and built on Bluemix, IBM’s platform for cloud-based mobile and web development, digital.NYC is a testament to how advanced technologies such as cloud can help drive economic growth and innovation.

The Smarter Planet blog sat down with Jessica Singleton, digital director for the City of New York, to learn a little bit more about the creation of digital.NYC, as well as her opinion around how the platform will help to skyrocket NYC’s already flourishing tech scene.

Smarter Planet: So, first things first. What’s the idea behind digital.NYC?
Jessica Singleton: Digital.NYC is a first-of-its-kind online platform that will serve as a centralized hub for the City’s tech ecosystem that provides information and resources to help turn ideas into businesses, deliver tools for digital startups, and connect New Yorkers to opportunities in the City’s tech ecosystem.

It’s designed to help both those who are already active in our city’s tech economy, as well as those who want to gain a foothold into it.

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SP: Why launch digital.NYC now?
JS: Technology is one of the fastest-growing sectors in NYC, and has enormous power to help create jobs and grow local companies. From fashion to manufacturing to finance, tech innovation is needed by and touches every industry in New York. We quickly realized that a centralized platform for our city’s digital community would help the industry grow, succeed and attract more talent and investment.

Between 2003 and 2013, the NYC tech ecosystem added 45,000 jobs – this is faster than both total NYC employment growth and total U.S. employment growth (respectively) over that same period. All together, our city’s digital community supports about 541,000 jobs, $50.6 billion in salaries for New Yorkers, and is worth about $125 billion.

And yet we discovered that a barrier for some was access to information about all the activities and resources — there’s no centralized hub for this information and it’s not always simple to find through search. This was a primary incentive for the City to help launch this centralized and comprehensive platform.

The site is an evolution from past City efforts including NYCEDC’s Venture Connect, NYC Digital’s Digital Map, and the We Are Made in NY site. The resources and expertise found on these sites has informed the development of Digital.NYC, but has also been augmented with much more information from a vast variety of content providers. Unlike past efforts, the information on the site is nearly comprehensive and is updated in real-time to keep pace with the dynamic industry. And the strong partnership between the City and the other partners in the effort (IBM, Gust, and several NYC tech companies providing content) means that this effort has support and input from a big tent of stakeholders.

SP: digital.NYC is built on Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform. Why did the partners choose to power this new hub with cloud?
JS: Cloud enables the level of collaboration that we needed to allow digital.NYC to reach every corner of the NYC tech ecosystem.

Developed on top of IBM’s cloud by Gust, digital.NYC integrates data and apps from dozens of sources throughout the City – including CourseHourse, WayWire, The Muse, Unwired, General Assembly, and others. Using cloud not only allowed us to collaborate through the development of our platform, but also gave us the speed, tools and infrastructure we needed to get it done quickly.

SP: One year from now, what do you think NYC’s tech scene will look like? How do you feel that digital.NYC will help this vision become reality?
JS: Starting from its launch on October 1st, digital.NYC will be the permanent online centerpiece of New York City’s digital community. But our work doesn’t stop with the launch. Mayor de Blasio has made a deep and long-term commitment to this platform and to supporting and growing New York’s tech ecosystem. The de Blasio administration believes in the power of New York’s digital economy. From training the next generation of engineers to increasing access to affordable housing and startup space, we will work to leverage all government resources to allow New York City’s digital economy to reach its full potential.

Digital.NYC is being launched as a “minimum viable product”, and will continue to evolve and improve as the community engages to provide content and feedback on functional improvements.

We couldn’t be more excited to officially launch digital.NYC, and we can’t wait to see the companies, entrepreneurs, business growth and innovations that will emerge from equipping our tech community with this tool.

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