The City Slicker: Rachel Sterne

The chief digital officer of New York City dreams up ways to use social media to make life in the Big Apple that much better.

Home Base: New York City

Year Started: 2011

Power Stat: Sterne's digital roadmap included input from more than 4,000 people.

When you want to put your city on the digital map, you don't call in a team of stat-spewing consultants. You hire a 28-year-old who cut her teeth on a start-up of her own, the citizen-journalist site GroundReport—the gig last January (making her the only city employee in America—at the time—with the badass chief digital officer job title), Rachel Sterne delivered a 65-page prospectus outlining the changes she has up her sleeve. "Today the city of New York has over 200 social-media channels," Sterne notes. "That includes Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, WordPress, Foursquare, and then, of course, more to come." Of course, it's not all about follows and likes. Getting the Internet to the people is a big part of the picture, as is encouraging local innovation. Proof: The city sponsored its very own hackathon in July where developers from all over the country submitted redesigns for

One of the coolest things to come out of Hurricane Irene: "We provided data for the hurricane-evacuation-zone maps that was embraced by several technology and media companies. The New York Times,, and Google, just to name a few, created incredibly usable interactive hurricane maps. Because they were made from city services, they were helping to extend how the city government was able to serve the public, and their reach helped us to expand our own—probably tenfold."

Why sometimes it's the simple things: "Even though it's basic, SMS technology is really important to us. We've been involved with the development of a survey reaching out to New Yorkers, specifically New Yorkers receiving social services, to find out how they would like to receive information, and mobile is key."

Click to see the top techiest city governments>>

Rachel Sterne's Cityscaping

New York's Top Tech Official Picks the Techiest City Governments

Sterne, who's only 28, is responsible for bringing New York's city agencies into the 21st century. She's pushing the digital boundaries in all sorts of resident-friendly ways, getting the Department of Transportation on Tumblr and the Housing Authority on Foursquare, among other initiatives. Here, she picks three other locales whose municipal governments are especially plugged-in.


"Boston's Citizens Connect is a mobile application that I think is very well done because it's so user-centric."

Rio de Janeiro

"They've done interesting work with open data, and they've done some interesting work with video, which is a great fit for their demographic."

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


"Chicago has recently launched a real-time snowplow map. It's called"

.@Details unveiled its 12 social mavericks of 2012 ( who do you think is the ultimate #SocialMaverick?

— DETAILS (@DETAILS) February 16, 2012

See more Social Mavericks

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