The Department of Buildings recently introduced a new “Quick Response” feature to the building permits displayed at all construction sites in the City.

Quick Response (QR) codes are barcodes that can be read by smartphones. The City says that, when scanned, the QR codes will provide “details about the ongoing project – including the approved scope of work, identities of the property owner and job applicant, other approved projects associated with the permit, the complaints and violations related to the location”. Users will also have the ability to click a link that will initiate a phone call to 311 to register a complaint.

Essentially, a person walking past a construction site will be able to get instant information about the project. We here at ZONE commend the City’s effort to utilize technology as a means for greater transparency.

To that end, the City recently hired Rachel Sterne as its first Chief Digital Officer. Rachel has gotten off to a fast start – she’s already using twitter and quora, among other sites, to engage the public on issues of City government and technology, including the new QR codes. The QR codes on DOB permits are a super start, but where else could the City use QR codes specifically (a question already posed by Sterne) and technology in general? How can technology help advance the goal of greater transparency and communication between the City and its inhabitants?

For one, the City and the MTA are working on bringing real-time information to transit riders. The City’s subways and buses could certainly benefit from additional information (whether it be about scheduled maintenance work, emergency closures due to weather, point to point directions, etc.).

Another possible area where technology can be used to provide better and quicker information might be surrounding the availability of affordable housing lotteries.

Additionally, the City is pushing its Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, a set of four laws (previously blogged about by us) that aim to green the City’s existing building stock. Perhaps once buildings meet their benchmarking requirements (as soon as May 1), QR codes can be provided for tenants and users to know the energy and water efficiency states of the buildings they frequent. If a major goal of the GGBP is to create a library of information that will change behavior, then making that information easily available seems like the right next step.

What’s your opinion? We’d love to hear your thoughts on new ways the City could use technology to bring greater transparency to land use, zoning, and environmental issues.