Software // Information Management
Commentary
10/15/2009
12:10 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
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San Francisco Opens Government Data

San Francisco is opening up government data to third-party application developers, who are jumping in with applications that track information on public transportation, recycling centers, and local crime.

San Francisco is opening up government data to third-party application developers, who are jumping in with applications that track information on public transportation, recycling centers, and local crime.DataSF.org uses more than 100 data sets from local government, including police, transport authority, and public works, according to an article in the UK newspaper The Guardian. Brian Purchia, deputy communications director for Mayor Gavin Newsom, e-mailed the link to InformationWeek; Purchia seems to be the main source of the article.

A few months ago, the mayor of San Francisco met some of the city's leading technology entrepreneurs. On the surface, it looked like little more than a photo opportunity - a chance for the smooth and ambitious mayor, Gavin Newsom, to smile and glad-hand with Twitter and a string of other hot internet companies. But signs soon emerged that something more fundamental was taking place.

A couple of months later, city officials announced the launch of DataSF.org, a repository for thousands of pieces of information pouring out of local government. "The idea behind the site is to open up San Francisco government and tap into the creative expertise of our greatest resource - our residents," said Newsom at the launch in August. He hoped for "a torrent of innovation" such as those on the iPhone and Facebook app platforms.

Applications using the data include Routesy, an iPhone app which provides nearby locations and times for the city's MUNI public transit system. Another, SpatialKey, lets residents check for drug offenses taking place near schools. And EveryBlock tracks calls to 311, the number used to request fixes for problems like broken streetlights, potholes, and blocked drains.

This summer, San Francisco connected the city's 311 call center to Twitter, in partnership with CoTweet, a Web-based service for companies and other organizations to manage their presence on Twitter. Residents can use Twitter to report problems to 311.

The San Francisco project is a miniature of the Government 2.0 work being spearheaded by the White House. President Barack Obama has mandated that government data must be made available for public consumption on the Internet.

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