New York State Senate Launches First Mobile Legislative App in Nation

 

The New York State Senate today announced full availability of its mobile application, "NYSenate Mobile," the first mobile application in the nation developed by a legislative body.  NYSenate Mobile brings New Yorkers closer to their elected officials, making comprehensive access to Senate information and content from all New York State Senators available any time, anywhere in the palm of your hand.  Citizens, staff, and journalists can use the app to search for bill information, contact their Senator, review event calendars, read Senator's blogs, watch archived video of Senate Session, Committee Meetings and Public Hearings, and even submit Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests.  Using devices with built-in GPS, users can find the Senator for where they are physically standing in New York State at any moment.
 
Available at no cost in the iTunes Store, “NYSenate Mobile” can be downloaded for Apple iPhones and iPod Touch.  It is also available in the Android Marketplace for Android-based phones such as the Verizon Droid, Sprint EVO 4G or Google Nexus One.  The Senate is expecting to release the application for Blackberry and iPad devices by this summer.  In addition, any device with a mobile web browser can access legislative content, including bills, agendas and transcripts by visiting http://m.nysenate.gov. 

“NYSenate Mobile” was built entirely in-house by Senate staff, at no additional cost to taxpayers.  As with all software developed within the Senate, this mobile app has also been released at (see http://github.com/nysenatecio) under dual BSD and GPLv3 open-source software licenses; other legislatures, as well as non-profit organizations, media and small businesses are free to leverage the software to develop their own custom mobile legislative applications.
 
“Good government is open government. Just two years ago, New Yorkers were locked out of the legislative process,” said Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson. “The former Majority required a $2,500 subscription to access a confusing and convoluted legislative tracking program, but our use of technology allows the taxpayers into the process, for free. It also reduces the overall costs of Senate operations. This is open government in real time.”

"We believe that effective legislative government requires ubiquitous, timely, and equal access to information for all New Yorkers, and the direct participation of as many citizens as possible in the legislative process," said Andrew Hoppin, New York State Senate Chief Information Officer.  "NYSenate Mobile makes this information more accessible, any time, anywhere."

"The NYSenate Mobile app pulls together information from across the Senate - all 62 Senator offices, all 32 Legislative Committees, as well as our Open Legislation system," said Nathan Freitas, lead developer for NYSenate Mobile and Open Legislation.  "It was quick and inexpensive for us to build because we follow, and in some cases are helping to create, national best practices in government for open data, open standards, and open-source software."
 
Open Government is Accountable Government: http://open.nysenate.gov

NYSenate Mobile is the latest in a series of “Open Senate” projects that seek to maximize the transparency and accessibility of legislative information for all New Yorkers, and provide new ways for citizens to participate in the legislative process.

Other "Open Senate" projects include:

  • NYSenate.gov, launched in May 2009, is comprehensive repository of all Senate institutional administrative data, and well as a leading "Gov 2.0" portal comprised of websites for all 62 Senators and more than 40 Senate Committees that support citizens in interacting directly with their elected officials and the legislative process.  Prior to 2009, most administrative data either needed to be FOIL’d or had not been available at all. Examples include comprehensive calendars of official events, live and archived video of committee meetings and public hearings, and payroll and expenditure reports in downloadable spreadsheet format.
  • OpenLegislation.NYSenate.gov, a website and an Application Programming Interface (API) that makes legislative information available to the public in a way that it can easily be searched, publicly commented upon, and shared socially with others.  Open Legislation is first website of a legislature in the nation to accept public comment on all bills; much of the legislative information available, such as Committee Votes, was not available anywhere online before the launch of the "Open Leg" website in 2009.  All data is available in industry standard open formats as “feeds,” and the publicly accessible API allows the data to be integrated directly into web applications by third-parties.  The data that is available on the OpenLegislation website is also leveraged for internal software applications, such as NYSenate Mobile.
  • Open Source -- NYSenate.gov, NYSenate Mobile, and Open Legislation exclusively use open-source software, so the Senate does not owe any license fees for their maintenance; furthermore, all software code for the projects is published online and freely available under open-source BSD and GPLv3 licenses for re-use by peers in government and any other third-party, thus increasing the anticipated ROI of our investment in these projects. 
  • Open Standards & APIs -- All data and other content used in NYSenate.gov, NYSenate Mobile, and Open Legislation is also published as data feeds in open standards formats such as XML, CSV, and JSON, and there is also a freely available Application Programming Interface (API).   This empowers third-parties to do work the Senate might otherwise need to do itself, such as developing applications that provide access to Senate data in a variety of value-added forms such as interactive voice response (IVR) telephony, at no additional cost to the taxpayer, thus further increasing the value to taxpayers derived from the Senate's development of these projects.
  • Open Content --  NYSenate.gov has also garnered national attention for its progressive content licensing policies, as the first State website that has copyrighted its content under a “Creative Commons” license, which affirms the public right to freely reuse content under the stipulation that it not be used for political fundraising purposes.


Open Senate was developed as part of an overall Information Technology modernization project in the Senate, initiated with the election of a new Senate Majority in January 2009, which has yielded in excess of $500,000 in annual net savings to date; savings have derived primarily from increasing the Senate's ability to create and maintain technology in-house, including using a combination of free open-source software and low-cost Software-As-A Service (SaaS) solutions whenever possible, thus enabling the Senate to cancel unnecessary maintenance and service contracts, and decommission expensive obsolete computer systems.