Queens tech meet-up talks Sandy

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Rachel Haot, NYC’s Chief Digital Officer, spoke about ways to improve the city’s digital potential at the fifth Queens Tech Meet-Up.THE COURIER/ PHOTO BY ALEXA ALTMAN
Rachel Haot, NYC’s Chief Digital Officer, spoke about ways to improve the city’s digital potential at the fifth Queens Tech Meet-Up.

Among many affected by Sandy, a common complaint was the lack communication and access to information.

Technology insiders gathered in Long Island City on Wednesday, December 19 for the fifth Queens Tech Meet Up. The monthly event brings members of the startup community together to network and share ideas, predominantly centered on technology’s importance during a time of crisis. The assembly is hosted by the Coalition for Queens, a non-profit group that aims to foster an entrepreneurial and supportive environment among those in the tech community.

The event focused largely on the important role technology played in assisting those affected by superstorm Sandy. Rachel Haot, New York City’s chief digital officer, provided invaluable insight into the city’s plan to become more technologically savvy and how that know-how allowed officials and citizens to remain informed and connected during the natural disaster.

Haot’s agency, which is linked with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, follows a digital roadmap to monitor the state of the digital city. The map centers on five key components en route to preparing the city to live up to its technical potential.

The first area is Internet access – providing easy and free service universally in New York City. The second segment is education – engineering school initiatives, which requires investing funds into developing technologically-focused courses into curriculums. The third piece is open government – discovering ways to enable innovation while maintaining transparency between officials and residents. The fourth area is engagement – keeping people connected with the government through technology, whether by reading tweets or checking agency websites. The fifth and final sector is industry – celebrating tech growth in the city and maintaining initiatives that allow it to continue to grow.

According to Haot, the fourth area – engagement – skyrocketed in the weeks after Sandy touched down in New York. During the storm, the city sent out 2,000 tweets, 3-1-1’s website received 4 million unique visits and the city received 176,010 new social media followers. Haot attributed the boost in online activity to the increased call for information during a time of distress.

“More information calms people down and provides psychological and emotional comfort,” said Haot.

The city is also in the process of integrating new innovations – including allowing locals to tweet or text requests to 3-1-1.