New York City Launches Artificial Intelligence Strategy
Note: This is intended as an archive of NYC government materials related to the NYC AI Strategy that may shift or move as part of the transition to the Adams administration.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: October 13, 2021
NEW YORK CITY LAUNCHES ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY
Recognizing the promise and perils of AI, New York City evinces leadership through a bold new strategy to foster a thriving AI ecosystem that benefits all New Yorkers
NEW YORK — Today, New York City released the NYC AI Strategy, a groundbreaking approach to the emerging field of artificial intelligence. With this approach, the City is pioneering the responsible use of AI at the municipal level in order to cultivate good jobs, improve services, and deliver equitable opportunities for all, built on the foundational need to protect the digital rights of every New Yorker.
At nearly $150 billion, New York City is the world’s second most valuable tech ecosystem and is already a major center for AI — home to 13% of America’s AI workforce, further reinforced by world-class universities and research labs. The NYC AI Strategy will strengthen the Big Apple’s leadership position. Specifically, the NYC AI Strategy identifies new opportunities to use AI to better serve New Yorkers, build AI know-how within government, modernize its data infrastructure, protect people’s digital rights, develop cross-sector partnerships, and promote equitable access to opportunities in this growing field.
The NYC AI Strategy is the latest in a series of initiatives to make New York City future-ready. Building on the NYC IoT Strategy to ensure the productive, responsible, and fair use of Internet of Things technologies, and the NYC Internet Master Plan to bridge the longstanding digital divide and achieve universal broadband, the NYC AI Strategy provides New York City with a strong foundation as emerging technologies grow increasingly important in the years to come.
“Artificial intelligence can transform how we live and work – but incorporating it into daily life in our city requires a thoughtful, comprehensive analysis of its risks and opportunities,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The NYC AI Strategy is a foundational document that that engages our city in that conversation. It’s a valuable tool to inform New Yorkers on what the City is doing to make sure people’s digital rights are respected and protected.”
“To make sure AI is used responsibly, we must first have a firm understanding of what AI is, as well as its capabilities and limitations,” said Deputy Mayor for Administration and Chief of Staff Emma Wolfe. “The NYC AI Strategy provides an overview on the range of areas the City will put these technologies to use: streamlining government operations, exploring ways to save taxpayer dollars, and improving how government programs and services are made available to all New Yorkers.”
“As a global epicenter of innovation, New York City has a key role to play in shaping the future of AI,” said New York City Chief Technology Officer John Paul Farmer. “Through the NYC AI Strategy, we are setting the Big Apple on the path to make the most of artificial intelligence, to protect people from harm, and to build a better society for all. It is critical that AI be both productive and fair, and that’s why we are sending a clear message: In the age of AI, digital rights are human rights.”
“A thoughtful approach to AI requires considering its many facets, from engineering and data infrastructure to social policy and economic development. This exciting but frequently muddled area, prone to both snake oil and fear mongering, also needs to be approached with the understanding that there are often still more questions than answers, and that some of the debates are longstanding and not about AI itself,” said New York City Director of Artificial Intelligence Dr. Neal Parikh. “The AI Strategy marks not the end of this process for New York City, but hopefully the end of the beginning, and benefits from building on the early leadership of many people across the city. Going forward, we should remember that the real issues are ultimately about what we are actually trying to achieve here — for human beings.”
The NYC AI Strategy has three main components:
The Strategy establishes a baseline of information about AI to help ensure decision-makers are working from an accurate, balanced, and shared understanding of the technology and the issues it presents.
The Strategy outlines key components and characteristics of the local AI ecosystem today, highlighting the wide range of institutions and efforts in place in New York City as well as providing insights into City government and how different offices and agencies are using or play a role in the governance of AI.
The Strategy identifies five broad thematic areas in which the City should focus further as part of an approach to AI: City data infrastructure; AI applications within the City; City governance and policy around AI; partnerships with external organizations; and business, education, and the workforce. Each area contains “Findings” of previous or current work that is related and could be learned from and built upon, as well as “Opportunities” for potential future action.
“The NYC AI Strategy is an important step toward developing an ethical and responsible AI ecosystem. We believe it offers powerful new opportunities to solve some of society’s biggest challenges,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President & CEO Rachel Loeb. “As AI continues to expand across industries and we see record levels of investment, it’s important for us to develop strategies to ensure AI is used to benefit the public good. That means promoting applications, policies, and cross-sector partnerships with New York City’s best interests at heart.”
“The NYC AI Strategy is an important representation of New York City’s leadership in fair, responsible, and innovative use of AI in the public sector,” said Alex Foard, Algorithms Management and Policy Officer for New York City. “The report makes clear the value of shared terminology, the complexity of the dynamics of AI in action, and the need to consider the local context when managing AI applications in government. I am excited to weave together principles from this strategy into our algorithms management work.”
“Artificial intelligence and machine learning are critical technologies used extensively at NYC Cyber Command to protect New York City’s infrastructure,” said Geoff Brown, Head of NYC Cyber Command & Chief Information Security Officer. “The NYC AI Strategy places an emphasis on the practical importance of core data infrastructure, rigorous review of external vendors, and the need to build internal city capacity to enable these transformative applications. Our team looks forward to working with agencies interested in responsibly and effectively leveraging these powerful tools.”
“New York City has been an early leader in tackling many complex policy issues involving the intersection of privacy and technology, both essential and interrelated components of good governance. This is a crucial moment for the City to look ahead broadly and holistically, and the NYC AI Strategy considers the NYC’s ecosystem as a whole,” said Laura Negrón, Chief Privacy Officer of New York City and Head of the Mayor’s Office of Information Privacy. “It is also critical that New York is grounding its approach in the principles of privacy and other digital rights, such as fairness and equity, all of which are interlinked. I am excited to work with colleagues across the City to continue to move forward the City’s efforts around AI.”
“This is a major step forward in cities establishing how to effectively and responsibly use AI to support delivering critical services,” said DJ Patil, Former Chief Data Scientist of the United States. “This will lay the roadmap for innovation in NYC and all cities going forward.”
“As the technology landscape continues to evolve to include AI and other emerging forms, The City of New York is laying a foundation that is essential for potential use and safe deployment,” said Andrew Rasiej, President of Civic Hall and Chairman Emeritus of the New York Tech Alliance. “The NYC AI Strategy should be studied and replicated by every city in the world.”
“The straightforward way the NYC AI Strategy frames the challenges ahead of us, from ambition to action, is really inspiring,” said Henri Verdier, France’s Ambassador for Digital Affairs. “Let’s prepare for an artificial intelligence & machine learning future, where these twin proposals create doorways to a more inclusive, fair, efficient society. Moving into this future and not a dystopian storyline requires self-reflection, self-learning and caution to protect citizen rights and interests. We all have a shared responsibility to move fast and fix things.”
Touria Meliani, Deputy Mayor for the Digital City, City of Amsterdam, said, “I am keen to see that both Amsterdam and New York are determined to use AI technologies within clear frameworks of transparency, accountability and legitimacy in our cities. We will continue to develop balanced guidelines that ensure safe and responsible applications of AI that serve the public. The NYC AI Strategy is an important milestone that strengthens and further advances these ambitions in a clear and principled way.”
“Artificial Intelligence will define public services and urban development in the coming decades,” said Laia Bonet, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona for the 2030 Agenda, the Digital Transition, and International Relations. “Global cities like New York and Barcelona have a duty not only to facilitate the deployment of urban AI, but also to ensure that it protects rights and does not amplify existing inequalities. From Barcelona, we welcome NYC’s comprehensive AI strategy, which I am sure will also serve as a basis to reinforce our ongoing partnership for a fair digitalization in cities.”
“While artificial Intelligence is a general-purpose technology, all meaningful projects must be business case-led and never AI-led. A key step to ensuring this occurs is a governmentwide strategic framework. I am pleased to see New York City showing vision and foresight through the release of the NYC AI Strategy,“ said Cheow Hoe Chan, Government Chief Digital Technology Officer of Singapore. “It is important to stay neutral in terms of which technology — whether AI or not — is used. By being knowledgeable about AI but focusing on the mission and first figuring out the problem you are trying to solve, that is how New York City and others worldwide will be most effective.”
“New York’s AI Strategy should be welcomed as a comprehensive, thoughtful, and agile approach in this developing field,” said Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer, City of London. “For global tech hubs like New York and London, we have a duty to set a direction for responsible innovation that not only promotes jobs and growth, but also guides and informs how AI and emerging technologies are used legally, ethically, and securely for the benefit of citizens.”
“In San Jose, we welcome NYC’s work on its AI Strategy and AI Primer — particularly its emphasis on the importance of community engagement in the context of AI, an issue that is often overlooked,” said Christine Keung, Chief Data Officer, Mayor’s Office on Technology and Innovation, City of San Jose. “Government’s ability to innovate is contingent on residents’ trust, and community engagement and buy-in are key to being worthy of public trust. Above all, as the strategy highlights, those of us in government must establish the understanding that this is not simply about analyses and algorithms but about better serving the needs of the public through technology.”
“As the largest public urban university system in the United States, serving over 260,000 undergraduate and graduate students — as well as nearly 200,000 registrations in adult and continuing education programs — CUNY plays an essential role in ensuring that all New Yorkers can secure, succeed, and advance in sustaining jobs and rewarding careers, and that New York City businesses have the diverse base of support they need,” said Lauren Andersen, University Dean for Industry & Talent Partnerships at the City University of New York. “AI and machine learning are powerful and disruptive technologies that affect the nature of work and the skills needed, are at the core of some of the fastest growing jobs available in New York City across many sectors, and are of major interest among our students. The NYC AI Strategy provides a broad consideration of factors that affect these opportunities. I look forward to engaging further with government, industry, and NYC communities in working to meet these exciting challenges.”
“AI is an intersectional topic that increasingly touches on a broad range of disciplines across STEM fields, the social and behavioral sciences, public policy, and the humanities,” said Dr. Tamera Schneider, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at the City University of New York. “As a complicated emerging technology, and rapidly evolving area of great significance to both NYC and society in general, research plays a uniquely important role in the responsible and equitable use of AI in both the public and private sectors. For AI to work fairly and effectively, diverse input in the design and use of these technologies is required. CUNY is the only university system in the country in which Asian, Black, Hispanic, and white students each constitute more than 20% of the student body. This makes CUNY an enormous resource for AI education and research in particular. The NYC AI Strategy is an exciting, broad initiative that highlights these issues and we look forward to CUNY’s further engagement.”
“Artificial intelligence, when designed and used responsibly, has the potential to generate public value and improve how we govern cities — yet only if leaders understand what AI actually can and cannot do, and only if they find strategic ways to align the applications of AI with real needs among their residents and businesses,” said Stefaan Verhulst, Co-Founder and Chief Research & Development Officer, New York University Governance Laboratory (GovLab). “The NYC AI Strategy is a great step forward toward generating a more sophisticated awareness of the opportunities and challenges, and provides an action plan to collectively steer the use of AI in a way that serves all New Yorkers.”
“With the launch of this AI Strategy, New York City affirms that AI technology can help our city run more efficiently, effectively, and fairly for all its citizens,” said Dr. Jeannette Wing, Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute and Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. “This strategy includes partnerships with academia, which allows the city to access cutting-edge research and workforce talent that is prepared for the 21st century. The NYC AI Primer is a must-read, not only for city officials, but also for university administrators and industry executives who should understand both the power of AI and its limitations.”
“NYC’s first AI Strategy is an important step towards building a technical and social architecture in which anyone can make it here, because that’s New York, New York,” said Mutale Nkonde, Founder & CEO, AI for the People. “Decisions made with or by AI systems can become encoded with racist, sexist and ableist assumptions, a phenomenon called algorithmic bias; it is welcome that the city is highlighting this issue in the NYC AI Primer. New York City — in which 55 percent of the population identifies as non-white — needs to work to ensure that AI systems used in public and private decision making do not engage in this kind of biased behavior, often present in wider society, and we look forward to engaging in further conversations about these topics.”
“Given how quickly artificial intelligence is being adopted for a wide range of applications and contexts, people beyond the tech world are striving to understand the opportunities and challenges,” said Dr. Deborah Estrin, Associate Dean for Impact and The Robert V. Tishman Founder’s Chair in Computer Science at Cornell Tech. “The NYC AI Primer provides city leaders and decision-makers with an excellent foundation from which to wrap their heads around AI and its potential. It’s great to see New York City take a proactive and thoughtful approach in addressing how technology can be harnessed to benefit its citizens. At Cornell Tech, we are committed to working with industry, government, and the broader community to make tech more equitable and more diverse.”
“AI is transforming every aspect of our society, often more quickly than our institutions can respond,” said Anil Dash, CEO of Glitch. “As a global center of culture, finance, and innovation, it’s vital that New York City sets the standard for thoughtful, innovative, responsible AI practice — including business practices like recruitment and hiring — and now we have a strong foundation for that work. I look forward to supporting NYC’s work along with other members of the technology and business community.”
“Machine learning (ML) is a rapidly evolving area — full of potential, but also rife with risks,” said Dr. Hanna Wallach, Partner Research Manager, Microsoft Research NYC. “Like many of us who work in ML, my research has shifted from focusing on core ML methods to focusing on the opportunities, challenges, and implications of developing and using ML methods in the real world. The NYC AI Strategy and AI Primer are helpful steps toward recognizing that policymakers must take a broad, holistic approach that incorporates interdisciplinary and diverse perspectives, while remaining grounded in reality and science rather than hype or fear. Ultimately, such an approach will lead to better real outcomes for all New Yorkers and others around the world.”
“Increasingly, artificial intelligence technologies contribute to more and more parts of our economy and our society, offering tremendous benefits but with undeniable concomitant risks. Little wonder the term ‘AI’ is often used interchangeably with ‘magic’ – it’s seen as a powerful force, yet beyond our collective ability to control,” said Dr. Chris Riley, Former Director of Public Policy, Mozilla. “Against this backdrop, New York’s AI strategy is a big positive step forward, increasing both our collective understanding and our capacity for strategic thinking and planning to build a healthy AI future.”
“NYC has developed one of the first city-level strategies to better support its responsible development and implementation of AI,” said Dr. Brandie Nonnecke, Founding Director of the CITRIS Policy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley and Technology & Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “Its AI Primer on the benefits and risks of AI and strategies to support responsible development, use, and governance is a valuable resource for all cities grappling with how to responsibly harness the power of AI.”
“I am excited to see the City of New York take a proactive approach by releasing a strategy specifically focused on artificial intelligence,” said Dr. Betsy Cooper, Founding Executive Director, Aspen Tech Policy Hub, The Aspen Institute. “Local governments will increasingly need to grapple with the implications of technologies like AI on every aspect of their operations, from education and the workforce to governance and the preservation of our democracy. Developing a careful strategy — like the City of New York did — is the only way to ensure we use technology for good rather than letting it use us.”
“Machine learning and data science aid the design and management of critical infrastructure in ways many do not realize. The technologies help provide the necessities of modern life. At Lineage Logistics, we touch over 30% of the refrigerated cargo in the United States, handling everything from strawberries to the meat supply to fresh vegetables. We welcome New York City’s leadership in recognizing the nuances and potential of AI and related technologies, which are highly relevant to areas like agriculture, the electrical grid, and the climate,” said Elliott Wolf, Vice President and Chief Data Scientist, Lineage Logistics. “These techniques are now fundamental to managing our food supply. We use them to stress-test the robustness of the designs of our facilities (such as to the myriad effects of extreme weather); they route pallets of food within and between facilities; they assist the workers we ask to enter freezers to help provide food for millions; they balance load on the electrical grid to increase utilization of renewable energy. Our AI/ML applications helped us rapidly adjust food supply chains in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic — particularly in the New York City region — to minimize disruption and food waste. We applaud the City of New York for its thoughtful examination of such impactful technology.”
“The NYC AI Primer provides an educational, yet understandable, approach to appreciating the potential and the pitfalls of AI and machine learning (ML) systems. The Primer is a must-read first step for individuals who appreciate the use of AI/ML within sociotechnical systems,” said Dr. Rumman Chowdhury, Responsible AI expert and General Partner, Parity Responsible Innovation Fund. “Particularly for policymakers, this report provides a starting point to understand AI/ML as a still nascent technology that, if unchecked, can implement and perpetuate systemic biases. It is encouraging to see this degree of thoughtfulness emerging from New York City, and I hope it permeates into implementation.”
“In the years ahead, New York City will need to harness the power of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies in ways that strengthen the city’s economy, improve social services delivery, and maximize the public good—all while preparing the city’s workforce for a more automated future,” said Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director, Center for an Urban Future. “The creation of a citywide artificial intelligence strategy is an important first step that can help policymakers and the private sector work together to realize these goals.”
“New York’s AI Strategy is a bold and inspiring example of how digital rights can find its way into the operationalization of AI policies,” said Milou Jansen, Coordinator, Cities Coalition for Digital Rights. “It shows the way forward to many other cities around the globe who likewise support an approach grounded in digital rights. As part of a broader global coalition devoted to upholding digital rights, we proudly continue to work alongside the City of New York, demonstrating the added value of city leadership at the intersection of technology and society within AI.”
“Even as AI and machine learning move into virtually every aspect of our lives, the people in charge of adopting and deploying these systems often struggle to fully comprehend their operations, outputs, and risks. Our research — which includes deep collaboration with local governments — suggests that city officials will increasingly rely on AI-based technologies to, for example, make decisions, allocate resources, enhance workplace efficiency, and manage growing amounts of data,” said Dr. S. Craig Watkins, Ernest A. Sharpe Centennial Professor at the University of Texas at Austin and Lead Principal Investigator of the Designing AI for Racial Justice Research Program in UT’s Good Systems Initiative. “However, without at least a basic understanding of the limits of AI and potential for disparate impacts, city managers risk replicating biased outcomes at scale. The NYC AI Primer is the kind of resource that every city government and its decision-makers should have access to. It delivers a clear-eyed explanation of the technical aspects of AI while also demarcating the emergent ethical challenges presented by these complex systems. If you or your organization deploy AI in the real world, this report should be required reading.”
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE STRATEGY
To inform this Strategy, over fifty City offices or agencies and external organizations were interviewed or consulted. This included City agencies responsible for policymaking and governance, those using or considering using AI, and those involved in areas like education, business opportunity, economic development, and consumer and worker protection. The City additionally consulted a wide range of external organizations engaged in AI in different ways, including universities, industrial research labs, advocacy organizations, civic technology non-profits, investors, and businesses.
ABOUT THE NEW YORK CITY MAYOR’S OFFICE OF THE CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER (MOCTO)
Our mission is to ensure that technology is inclusive, accessible, human-centered, and works for all New Yorkers. We view technology as a critical tool for making New York City the fairest big city in America. Our work is organized around four pillars: Universal Broadband, ensuring high-quality, affordable internet for all New Yorkers; Inclusive Innovation, making New York City the place where new ideas are applied to improve lives; Digital Services, delivering government services online to make government work better for everyone; and Emerging Tech & Society, advancing laws, rules, and plans that promote the public good and protect New Yorkers’ digital rights. Learn more at nyc.gov/cto.