New York City adopted the "we're always open" mentality in the late 1990s when it launched the NYC.gov Web site. Based on geographic information system technology from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI and software from Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle, NYC.gov is designed to be a gateway to government services, offering a range of information for residents, government, visitors and businesses. The latest news, events or emergencies, historical photos or property data can be found on the Web site, and users also can pay parking tickets or property taxes or order a birth certificate online.
NEW YORK—Seventeen days after terrorists attacked New York City, Avi Duvdevani is still under siege.
"You can't get near the building," says New York City's acting commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT) when asked if he's accepting visitors to his Brooklyn office. "I can't get FedEx packages delivered. Armed guards search my car every morning. Every morning."
New York City's website (http://www.nyc.gov) promises citizens that it's "always open," and Duvdevani was determined to keep it that way. After the second plane hit, his staff removed parts of the site that could be useful to attackers and updated the front page to include information about the unfolding crisis.
The Web servers were safe in Brooklyn. The Internet connection, however, was located at the damaged Verizon office, and with electricity out in Lower Manhattan, Duvdevani knew the clock for the backup power supply was ticking. By 10:40 p.m., when the batteries gave out, NYC.gov had been migrated to a contingency Web connection. But that raised different technological issues. The backup connection had a different IP address, one that would take three days to fully propagate across name servers on the Internet. During that time, the site would be difficult to access.
That simply wouldn't fly. Switchboards were swamped with incoming phone calls, making connections difficult even for citizens who had dial tones. Many broadcast television stations had relied on antennas atop the fallen towers. NYC.gov was the best way to deliver information that just couldn't wait: where distraught families could go for help, where dislocated city employees should report to work, which schools were open, which trains were running, which bridges and tunnels were open, how citizens could help.
A half-dozen members of Duvdevani's team worked out a plan for physically rerouting the Internet connection. "That kind of thing would have taken weeks to design, and they worked it out in a few hours," he says. "We sent in four people in overalls and HEPA filter masks Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and actually rebuilt the connection in another building."
By Wednesday NYC.gov was back to normal, except for a few sections kept down for business reasons—for example, online forms where citizens could send messages to officials. "Between Tuesday noon and the following day, the mayor had gotten more than 1,000 messages, mostly of support and prayers," Duvdevani says. "If we'd have kept the [service] up, he would have gotten maybe 50,000 messages, and that's how many he gets in a year. His office couldn't possibly keep up." As the world knows, Giuliani had plenty to do.
New York City Unveils Redesigned, Redefined Portal,'NYC.Gov;' Declares Government is Always Open
With Accenture's Assistance, City Is Propelled to Forefront of Local eGovernment Arena
New York, May 30, 2001 — Mayor Rudolph Giuliani today announced an expanded, more fully integrated "NYC.Gov" web site, which was redesigned and redefined with Accenture's assistance to create the virtual government. As a result, anyone living, visiting or conducting business in New York City now has unprecedented online access to a wide range of public services, whether they want to file a permit application or learn about recreational services the City provides.
The new portal offers one-stop shopping for government services, which previously could only be accessed at 'brick and mortar offices' or by visiting multiple web pages. The new "NYC.Gov" is also more interactive and responsive to citizen needs with its intentions-based design, built on enterprisewide-portal technology.
With this design, New Yorkers or anyone needing more information about the City and its services are greeted at "NYC.Gov" by the "I Want To" directory, listing 12 frequently accessed categories that allow individuals to seek a service without the need to understand each City agency's responsibilities. To provide complete, seamless service, the design then intuitively links the site's visitors to specific consolidated information about services that may be provided by multiple governmental agencies. Information is available the way citizens want to view it rather than the way the government is organized.