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10/28/2010
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San Francisco Mayor Proposes Data Transparency Law

Gavin Newsom's DataSF.org online repository has spurred developers to build more than 50 new applications providing online services for city residents.

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San Francisco's mayor wants to codify an executive order mandating that city agencies make as much data as possible available in an online repository similar to the federal Data.gov site.

Mayor Gavin Newsom revealed the DataSF.org site for publishing city data sets last year, signing an executive order to promote data transparency to provide better engagement with city residents.

Last month, Newsom proposed legislation (PDF) to solidify the effort, which also aims to get feedback on what kind of data people are interested in viewing, and also on the quality of the data the city is storing.

With San Francisco's proximity to Silicon Valley and its history of technology innovation, Newsom said in a blog post when he unveiled DataSF that he hoped having access to it would inspire people to build applications that would help city residents.

"The idea behind the site is to open up San Francisco government and tap into the creative expertise of our greatest resource -- our residents," he wrote in a on TechCrunch last August, in revealing the repository. "We hope DataSF.org will create a torrent of innovation similar to when the developer community was given access to the platforms behind popular technologies and devices like Facebook and Apple’s iPhone."

Even though there are a little more than 150 data sets posted to the site so far -- compared with the 305,674 sets available on Data.gov -- the technology innovation Newsom hoped for has materialized.

Since last September when the executive order was sent down, developers have built more than 50 applications that use city data from the site to provide online and mobile services to city residents.

Applications range from one called BART Arrivals, which gives people timetables for its BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) public-transport system on iGoogle and other Web dashboards, to one that tells them the best place to dispose of nearly everything called EcoFinder; to a Web-based application called CleanScores that provides the health-inspection scores for restaurants in San Francisco.

San Francisco is just one of eight U.S. cities, Seattle and Chicago among them, with an open-data online repository.

Newsom's move to make San Francisco's data-transparency initiative a law follows one by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to codify a technology-oriented executive order at the state level. Late last month, Schwarzenegger signed into law an order he issued in February calling for statewide IT reform, including a broad data-center consolidation plan.

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