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3/4/2010
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White House Backs Open311

The Open311 standard allows developers to link cities' online information and other services together and make them accessible to residents via Twitter, and Facebook.

The city of San Francisco -- with White House backing -- has launched what it hope will be a nationwide effort to tie cities' 311 information services together via a common Web interface.

White House CIO Vivek Kundra joined San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at a press event Wednesday to promote the Open311 standard, which allows cities to unite their services via mashups and connect with constituents via social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

"Through this approach, Web applications can mash publicly available, realtime data from the cities to allow people to track the status of repairs or improvements, while also allowing them to make new requests for services," according to a post on the White House blog by Kundra.

Using the Open311 API, software developers can write Web applications that can make service requests to cities' 311 systems and submit new service requests to city departments.

Kundra's blog post provided an example of how an end user could use a system developed using Open311. "I can use the same application to report a broken parking meter when I'm home in the District of Columbia or traveling to cities like Portland, Los Angeles, Boston, or San Francisco," he wrote.

Open311 is in line with the Obama administration's overall Open Government Initiative, which aims to make local, state, and federal agencies services and information more accessible to citizens via the Web, Kundra added in the post.

Cities across the U.S. already have been gradually offering online 311 services, allowing people to use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with their local municipalities.

Several North American cities aside from San Francisco -- Edmonton, Portland, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington among them -- already support Open311, while others like New York have discussed similar ways to link and open up 311 data and services.

Newsom and Kundra encouraged all North American cities to support Open311 to create a unified system across the country.

"We want every major city to join this effort," Newsom wrote in a guest blog post on Mashable. He urged people to ask their local government officials to join the initiative via the Open311.org Web site.

"The more cities behind this effort the better for city budgets, citizens, and developers throughout the nation," Newsom said in his post.

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