Authorities expertise is famously dangerous. It would not need to be.

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So the unit applies what it calls “marketing campaign techniques” to coverage implementation, proactively partaking with New Yorkers by door knocking, telephone banking, textual content messages, emails, and public occasions to share details about metropolis providers like lease help, public transportation subsidies, and—in fact—well being care and assist individuals join them.

“My purpose and my staff’s purpose is to restrict the technical complexity and, as a lot as potential, additionally decrease the quantity of instances that it’s a must to present the identical piece of knowledge.”

Matt Fraser, NYC chief expertise officer

The precise outreach strategy depends upon the inhabitants concerned. For younger individuals within the metropolis, texts alone would possibly do the trick. If the unit desires to focus on seniors, it may also begin with a mass textual content marketing campaign, since most individuals are snug with cell telephones, and shortly transfer on to door knocking and in-person assist for individuals who don’t reply to texts. To succeed in those that are usually not accessible by telephone or at dwelling, staffers work with community-based organizations and in public areas like libraries to fulfill individuals in individual. 

I just lately examined the PEU’s system, texting the unit to ask for assist with my medical insurance choices. I obtained a right away textual content again and two follow-up calls the identical day. After I didn’t reply, I continued to get texts and calls persistently all through the week till I knowledgeable them that I didn’t need assistance any longer. It was virtually annoying, but it surely was efficient.

The PEU has seen that individuals are considerably extra doubtless to join authorities packages when town involves them, whether or not it’s by texts, calls, or another strategy. In a single research of a marketing campaign to enroll New Yorkers within the Honest Fares program, the PEU focused individuals already registered within the Supplemental Vitamin Help Program (SNAP), for the reason that eligibility necessities are comparable. It discovered that individuals it texted have been 46% extra doubtless to join Honest Fares than these it didn’t attain out to. And eligible New Yorkers who texted again have been 168% extra prone to enroll.

Avoiding techno-solutionist traps 

The PEU is proving that extra, or extra difficult, tech shouldn’t be all the time the reply. Shiny tech-savvy authorities initiatives touted by politicians can show to be radical letdowns. Take blockchain voting, which West Virginia briefly piloted through the 2020 election; after a lot media consideration, the experiment was deserted as soon as it was clear the expertise couldn’t present any elevated safety for digital voting. 

Or contemplate the rise, and fast fall, of schooling expertise packages through the pandemic; at first, Zoom and personalised on-line classes appeared like an effective way to exchange in-person educating, however core studying metrics dipped dramatically throughout the nation.  

In lots of instances, advances in expertise meant to assist implement public coverage have really harmed individuals they have been supposed to assist. Consider digital well being data, which have led to infringements on affected person privateness, and even deaths, attributable to information errors. Or the usage of facial recognition in policing, which is much less correct for Black and brown individuals, resulting in false arrests and really lowering public security for big swaths of the inhabitants. 

However this hasn’t stopped political leaders from pinning their administrations’ fates on new expertise, even in New York Metropolis. 

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