While Racing Through Its Digital Roadmap, City Offers Small Businesses a Toolkit

While NYC is becoming a hub of technological innovation, many local small businesses lag behind. On Aug. 23, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the Small Business Digital Toolkit, a new initiative, at the NYC Business Solutions Center in Jamaica, Queens. Photo by Edward Reed.

New York City is gaining traction in its effort to become one of the most tech-friendly cities in the country. As evidence, on Thursday the city released an update to its “Digital Roadmap,” which first announced the city’s digital goals just 16 months ago.  Within the 64-page update, the city proudly checks off what it has accomplished, highlighting the free WiFi hotspots in 20 city parks and other locations, more than $2 billion invested in the city’s education initiative, Applied Sciences NYC, its high engagement with New Yorkers through social media and smartphone apps and greater technology access for public school students and their families.

But while the city becomes more digital, and as tech start-ups choose New York over Silicon Valley, some of the city’s homegrown small businesses lag behind. Barely two-thirds of small businesses have a website, according to a recent report by the Center for an Urban Future.

Of course, Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to change that.

Along with the updated Roadmap, Bloomberg also announced a new public-private initiative designed to bring those small businesses into the 21st century. The free resource package, offered online and at NYC Business Solutions Centers throughout the five boroughs, is called the Small Business Digital Toolkit. NYC Digital and the Department of Small Business Services have teamed up with the tech companies Tumblr, Mashable, Weebly and Google in the venture and will provide small businesses with training to build e-commerce websites and create social media accounts.

“Under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership, New York has become a leading technology center, and with this new program we will ensure that more small businesses can harness the power of digital technology and social media to grow their businesses,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel.

Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, praised the city for tackling the problem.

“Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment to addressing the technology gap for small businesses is an important step,” said Bowles in a statement. “It will help more of the city’s small businesses get smarter and more competitive, and it will give some the ability to grow to the next level.”

The center’s report, he said, which found that an “alarming” number of city businesses didn’t utilize online advertising, digital payroll systems and other technologies, put them at a “significant disadvantage.”

The city and coalition of participating entities is launching the toolkit in part because of an interest business owners expressed in learning how to grow through digital media.

The updated Digital Roadmap also showcases the city’s efforts to open up city data to developers through the Big Apps competition and other initiatives. It set goals for moving forward, too.

Coming soon: smartphone taxi payments through a deal with Square, opening up the 311 API to software developers and live streaming New York City Council hearings.  By the end of 2012,  30 more subway stations will have 3G connectivity, mostly in the Midtown West area.




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